The value of a conversation is often greater for the person listening, because listening allows you to learn something new, whereas talking only gives you an opportunity to regurgitate the things you already know.

Most businesses like to talk rather than listen. But listening to your customers, and more importantly, acting upon their feedback can only be good for your business. You can spend a fortune paying for advertising and marketing to promote your product. But how much notice do you take of your customer feedback?

Image Credit: Leeds Valley Park

Good or bad, it’s all useful. For example, you launch a product and it doesn’t sell as well as some of your other stock. Do you spend more money on advertising it, or do you find out why? A simple email survey of your customers or some social media monitoring may reveal that the price is too high, the colour isn’t popular or that it’s the wrong shape or size for their needs. Changing the product is going to be far less expensive in the long run than continuing to promote it in the hope things will pick up.

Your customers love to share, whether you ask for their feedback or not. Run a search for your business on social networking sites like Twitter and find out what your customers are saying about your brand. Yes, you may not like everything you read, but it gives you a chance to respond and act. Best of all, it’s free.

Big brands are already taking advantage of ‘crowd-sourcing’ their ideas. Put simply, they test new advertisements, products or ideas on sites such as YouTube to find out how they will be received before they pay for expensive television advertising. They ask for, and act upon, suggestions to improve their products before they launch them.

Providing a simple feedback form on your website and including an evaluation sheet with your invoice is a free and effective way of finding out how your clients, suppliers and customers feel about doing business with you. For the more digital savvy, there are a vast array of monitoring tools such as Radian6 and Brandwatch that can be used to track what customers are saying.

If you’re stuck for ideas and your business is getting stagnant, use professional sites such as LinkedIn and forums such as Mumsnet to find out what people are looking for. You may just hit the jackpot and find an idea that you would never have thought of yourself.

Listening to your customers is vital, particularly in the modern world when people expect their views to be heard. Sites such as TripAdvisor can make or break your hotel business and sites such as Amazon and eBay rely on customer ratings and reviews to endorse products and sellers.

Not listening won’t stop people talking, so take a deep breath, ask for feedback and watch your business boom.