It’s fall, it’s football season, and in my house, we get our fill of college football on Saturday afternoons. My husband is a fan of a certain Big 10 team who finds itself in its second lackluster year after many past winning seasons and bowl game appearances. Fans were elated when, in 2008, the university brought in a fresh new coach to turn things around and take the team to the next level. With the new coach came an entirely new strategy, which requires the full commitment of the entire organization, recruitment of new players who are best equipped to adapt to the new plan, and willingness from existing players to adjust to the new coaching style.
Unfortunately, the past two seasons have produced more losses than wins, and disgruntled fans are already calling for the coach’s replacement. Looking at the sweeping changes that have been implemented, you can easily draw the conclusion that it would be impossible to turn the team around in just two short seasons.
Like football, instituting or reinvigorating a customer listening program is not a “one season” activity. It takes year-round practice, shifting of team members to ensure those with the right skills are at the forefront of the action, commitment from the entire organization, and internal and external support. From the beginning, the entire team needs to be committed to the program and willing to deal with the growing pains in order to see the return. Too much time, effort, and money is invested in these programs to stop them short of their full potential. Organizations need to set short-term goals to monitor steady progress towards achieving long-term success.
While it takes time to ingrain a customer listening program into an organization, customers expect to see a timely return on their investment. Companies must communicate with customers that they are listening and taking action on the feedback that is received. While it might take time to fix the big issues, telling customers that you’re working on it will go a long way in terms of their patience and continued support even during the rocky times.
Sports teams can’t be expected to turn things around in one season, just like customer listening programs shouldn’t be expected to reach their full potential in a short timeframe. Both take time, repetition, and a lot of practice to develop the team and the process into a cohesive unit. But along the way, be sure to let customers know that you value their commitment and that you’re taking steps to ensure they support you for a long time to come.