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The Sound of Silence: Reading into Your Customers’ Lack of Noise

By Peter Armaly

When a comedian is on stage and the punchline he’s practiced for a week is met with stony stares from the audience, what’s that sound he hears? Besides the random uncomfortable cough from an audience member, the sound he hears is probably his heart constricting and his cortisol levels rising. It’s at that time when a person fully understands the expression, “The silence was deafening”.

For your business, silence can be a sign of trouble. Your community of customers should be a place where ideas and interactions thrive, where they talk with other customers and engage with you (the service provider) in ways that demonstrate their ongoing interest to better leverage your solutions to achieve their business goals. Once a decision is made to purchase subscriptions or licenses, why would a customer not want to do as much as possible to maximize their use of that investment? And while there are many capable customers who make every effort to independently extract value from the solution, in especially with the current state of enterprise cloud software, most customers know it helps to talk with others in order to fully learn. Silence in your customer community usually means only one thing: disengagement. And disengagement is often the real tell-tale sign of trouble.

Customer on the Way Out? Don’t Misread the Signals

It’s true that customers can be noisy. The noise in fact can seem to detract from your progress as a service provider as you spend sometimes inordinate amounts of time and money on reactive support to dampen it. Too many providers, though, misread noise as a clear indicator of eventual customer churn. While it can mean that, it doesn’t have to. More often than not noise means the customer is seeking help, advice, and guidance. Rather than adopt an ever-ready state of perpetual defensiveness, it’s best to take a step back and assess your products and the state of your service. Read into the noise and try to recognize certain clues. Is the noise a sign that your service is not delivering the quality of guidance your customers need and, arguably, deserve? Is the service being delivered by people who are well equipped to share ideas for best utilizing the products to meet the needs of specific use cases? Do the people delivering the service understand the customer’s industry? Do they understand the customer’s business?

Modern customer-centric service providers are moving away from thinking of service and support as a reactive model and conceptualizing customers more from the vantage of their full lifecycle. Providers need to view their customer relationships through a broader lens and approach each interaction as an opportunity to strengthen engagement over time. And they need to come to happy terms with knowing that when customers stay with you for the long haul, silence is not something you should expect to hear from them. If you want silence, try visiting a monastery.

Listen to your customers and read all the signs that they’re giving off, especially the digital ones. Find out how by reading “Getting the Digital Handshake Right.”

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