A gentleman I met in a conference recently, said- ‘The spelling of communication is- LISTEN.’
A very good thought. I pondered, though, how many people actually would listen to his communication.
The technology of communication has advanced beyond imagination. Cell phones, sattelite phones, e-mails, blogs, etc. are some things that our ancestors would have never imagined. But what about the quality of communication? That is a HUGE question. Unfortunately there has only been incremental progress in the quality of our communcation.
Similar to our forefathers, we are poor listeners. Before the other guy has even completed saying what he wants to say, we are ready with the answer. JAMA study found that a whopping 72% of doctors interrupt a patient in his opening statement itself, and that too within 12 seconds!
I am surprised to see the number of healthcare providers who would invest crores/millions without even listening to what the market actually wants. All of us have feedback forms in our hospitals to listen to our patients. How many patient suggestions are actually implemented? How many times we call back and tell them that their suggestion was listened [read] to and has been implemented?
I have met enough Managing Directors and Chairmen who already know what will be the new specialties that they would invest in. Who did they listen to before making such a decision is a question that makes them uncomfortable. ‘No one else is doing it, so we will go ahead with it’ is the best answer that they can come up with. Well, precisely, if no one is doing it, may be you should listen to them as to why they are not doing it. May be it is not wanted by the market yet. Will it not be a good idea to listen to the market and study the market conditions before jumping to conclusions?
A very effective technique [if you know how to use it well] is focus group interviews. Call a group of your customers and the get them to discuss and talk about what they would want in terms of a service experience. Then listen to them. You may be shocked [as I was] to find out that what you thought most important for your customers is 7th on their list; and what you thought is not of much importance is what they actually value the most.
Another technique [I find it a bit complicated though] is something called Quality Function Deployment [QFD]. It helps you to provide services according to the Voice of the Customer [VOC].
Listening to the markets, customers, competitors, fellow workers is critical to success. Listening tells you what to speak. Great communicators are invariably great listeners. They not only listen to the words, they listen to the tone, pitch, volume, body language and a lot of other things that comes along with words.
Strategy is more a function of observation [listening] than it is about intellect. For this month, I invite you to listen more and speak less. I have started already and am reaping the benefits too!
P.S.- Check out my blog. The link is given below. I apologise for not opening it for your comments yet. Finding time to moderate them is a big challenge. You can however e-mail your comments to me.