There’s a passage from Aaron Copland’s What to listen for in music that distinguishes between hearing music and listening to music – the latter of which is ACTIVE.
I think this distinction is equally valid for running a company – especially a service company – especially these days.
Are you listening to your customers? Do you need to ask your customers questions to get answers, or do they freely share their thoughts, ideas, criticisms and praise with you?
Asking for feedback is always a good idea, but the best service culture touts an open (and unprompted) exchange of thoughts – some about what YOU are doing, and some about what else is going on around you. This second part is incredibly rich – and it’s how we decided to start our core product (ChurchPost.com) and many others after that. Listen to what people are saying about the “other stuff” – the stuff that you hear over and over again, and realize – “Hmmmm….why are so many people struggling with this?”
Equally tempting is to take every comment, every feature request, every criticism to heart and try to fix it. In their fantastic book Rework, Jason Fried and David Hansson have a section about NOT keeping lists of feature requests and other feedback. Do NOT write them down, they say. Agreed.
As more people say the same thing, you WILL remember what needs to be done (and most importantly, why you are doing it – to solve a problem). This is in stark contrast with launching feature after feature until you forget why you started your service in the first place.