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It’s Time to Be Intentional About Customer Listening

What is the single most important source of customer insight that an organization has? Is it the conversations salespeople have with customers? Perhaps it’s nested in the thousands of comments customers provide in surveys? Or maybe it’s from all the RFPs you receive that signal evolving market requirements. Having a hard time answering this question? Me too.

Truth be told, the companies that are best at listening to their customers don’t rely on a single source. They leverage multiple listening posts to understand customer needs deeply. That doesn’t mean just because you’re deploying multiple surveys that you can check customer listening off your list. No, too many companies find themselves in situations where they are overburdening customers with requests for feedback because there is no centralized architecture to rationalize when, who and how they seek the customer’s perspective.

Companies that focus on optimizing their customer listening efforts are using an intentional architecture to align their listening plan to their organizational strategy while providing a foundation for comprehensive and cohesive listening efforts throughout the organization.

Customer Listening Architecture Case Study

Take Agilent Technologies for example. Agilent is a global multi-billion-dollar company in the analytical instrumentation and life sciences industry. Two years ago, Agilent acknowledged that meeting its customers’ ever-increasing needs was becoming more of a challenge, and using the company’s existing approaches to customer listening and driving needed action were too siloed, functionally.

To meet its customers’ growing expectations, Agilent did four things to dramatically transform the way it approached the customer experience:

  1. Redeveloped its brand to a customer-focused, “outside-in” brand and intentionally designed its customer experience to deliver on its brand promises
  2. Used journey maps to launch key cross-functional CX improvement initiatives
  3. Completely redesigned its company-wide customer listening system
  4. Established a governance structure, from the top of the company down to regional and country teams around the world, to drive customer experience improvements cross-functionally

For purposes of this blog, I want to focus on one key element of Agilent’s customer experience transformation: redesigning how the company listens to customers. Rather than listening at touchpoints as delivered by Agilent, it designed a listening system around the key steps in the customer’s journey. More specifically, it evolved from relying on a 12-year relationship survey that measured touchpoints like installation, billing and account management to a measurement system that focuses on journey-based milestones that are most important to customers: Research and Decide, Onboarding New Solutions, Using the Solutions and Getting Support. The organization leverages this framework to rationalize, organize and act on the customer insights it collects from a variety of sources.

Knowing When It’s Time to Develop a Customer Listening Architecture

Agilent’s tipping point to revamp its customer experience strategy and associated listening system came because of rapidly changing customer expectations. Other signals can indicate that the time is right to take a hard look at how you stay in tune with customer needs:

  1. You are just starting on your customer experience listening journey and you need to align to your company’s strategy and prioritize your investments in your Voice of Customer program.
  2. You have lots of listening posts currently deployed in your organization, but they are not all known, coordinated or delivering the full impact that you expect.
  3. You have experienced recent mergers or acquisitions and need to align and integrate customer listening activities.
  4. You need to update your customer listening efforts regarding standards, design and linkages across listening posts.

    Experience Gap
    The experience gap is the difference between what CEOs think and what customers perceive.

In one of Walker’s customer experience industry research reports, titled The CEO View of CX, we found that 80% of CEOs believe they deliver a superior experience, but only 8% of their customers agree. We refer to this as the experience gap. And it suggests that the systems businesses use to listen to customers may not be telling them what they need to hear or nobody is listening.


If you would like to learn more about customer listening, check out our recent webcast, Building Your Customer Listening Architecture. Also, if you will be in the Chicago area on June 12th, consider coming to our Customer Experience Network Event focused on building out your Listening Architecture.

About the Author

Noah Grayson

Noah is a dynamic and engaging storyteller who brings outstanding experience to every client engagement. Always focused on results, his work with clients in a wide range of industries has earned recognition, including the CX Impact Award from CXPA. Noah joined Walker in 1992 and is a certified customer experience professional (CCXP).

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