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When uncertainty is certain, we must keep listening

Two weeks ago, the UK voted to leave the EU. The polls didn’t see it coming. The markets didn’t see it coming. I’m happy to admit I didn’t see it coming.

Since the referendum result, the pound’s crashed but the FTSE’s been boosted. We know we’re leaving the EU but we aren’t sure when, or the terms of our divorce. And we know we need strong leadership but we aren’t sure who will be leading our two main political parties over the next few days, let alone weeks or months.

Since 23rd June, the only thing that’s been certain has been uncertainty.

My concern is what happens next. How do businesses deal with this inherent uncertainty? My advice to all of the organisations I work with is simple.

Keep listening.

Keep listening to your customers, to your potential customers. The worst thing to do is assume anything – just ask the Remain campaign! The companies that emerge from these uncertain times strongest will be those that keep listening.

In these uncertain times, we need to strong customer insight more than ever

Companies need to stay close to what customers are saying, and most importantly feeling.

  1. Have shorter, more regular contact with customers. Marquee “customer immersion” events make a big statement but they are set at a particular point in time. The referendum showed how opinion can mobilise and shift quickly. It’s better to have shorter, more regular contact through call listening, store visits or customer communities.
  1. Don’t rely on one form of customer insight. The polls showed a likely Remain victory. But political commentators who visited places around the country (like Stoke) saw something quite different. This shows how limited single sources of data can be. Take all the different insight you have available – macro trends, surveys, qualitative feedback, social media and feedback from front-line staff – to get a truly rounded view of what your customers think and feel.
  1. Show you’re listening. Respond to customer concerns about the economy and Brexit’s impact on their household finances. The financial services company that addresses customers’ concerns about their falling investments head-on will win trust. The energy company that explains why currency fluctuations affect energy prices will win plaudits.

Every company in every sector will need to keep abreast of what its customers are saying, doing, and feeling. Sentiment will be very fluid and unpredictable over the next few years.

In these uncertain times, we need to strong customer insight more than ever.

We need to keep listening.

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