Are you listening?

iCab

I'm a generous tipper — always have been.  Because over the years, I've worked several jobs that depended on tips, I've always had a soft spot for those who are doing so now.

With one noted exception.  Cab drivers.

I travel a lot.  Which means I ride in a lot of cabs.   Most trips are uneventful.  The cab drivers are a little rude.  Typically they are either talking on their cell phone (hands free, of course) or they're listening to a radio station that I do not understand.

Basically, I am invisible.

So I have no inclination to be a good tipper.   If only those cab drivers knew how easy it was to get me to open up my wallet….

A few weeks ago, I had an in/out trip to DC.  Fly in Wednesday afternoon and out Thursday night, after a day long meeting.  But my friend Jean (who owns the excellent agency Fixation) was able to get us Nationals tickets for Wednesday night.

As I got into the cab around 4:30, the driver actually spoke to me.  He asked if I was in town for business and I said yes…but I was hoping to get to the baseball game that night, if the rain held off.  The conversation could have ended there….and it would have been better than most.  But then, the cabbie surprised me.  He said, "the weather is on every 10 minutes on XYZ radio station.  Let's turn it on and see what they're saying about tonight's weather."

And with that, he turned on the radio and we both listened to the dismaying news.  Odds were not good that I was going to get to see Randy Johnson throw his 300th win. (They ended up canceling the game and Johnson recorded the historic win the next night)

I gave the driver one little clue.  I was hoping the rain would hold off so I could see the game.  He could have ignored it, made a simple comment or just went on with his usual driver behavior.

But he was really listening.  And it paid off for him.

I think this happens to every one of us — each and every day.  Clients make a casual comment or an aside…and in our rush to get the work done or the information we need, we rush right by it.

We don't ask the follow up question.  We don't probe a little more.   And we miss incredible opportunities. 

I want to challenge you.  This week — listen harder.  Always ask a follow up question.  See where it takes you.  Remember all our talk about exceeding expectations and surprising our customers?

This week — do it.

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24 comments on “Are you listening?

  1. Daniel says:

    Hmm. This post was a bit of a space filler. Sorry you missed your game, but at least you got a reasonable anecdote out of the trip.

  2. Good story – thanks for sharing. I think you’re absolutely right when it comes making the extra effort to really engage with your customers. Your story just proves that customers will show their gratitude when it they feel like someone’s actually listening. 🙂

  3. The experience you just described with your cab driver proves that exceptional customer service and listening can make the difference in conversion. Was it that hard? I do think that the cultural barriers that exist with cab drivers (typically recent immigrants) is largely to blame for their lack of care.

    Thus could you create a mentorship program for cab drivers? I think it could be a tremendous benefit. Most people just want to talk with you and not hear you on your cell phone. It’s not rocket science.

  4. The experience you just described with your cab driver proves that exceptional customer service and listening can make the difference in conversion. Was it that hard? I do think that the cultural barriers that exist with cab drivers (typically recent immigrants) is largely to blame for their lack of care.

    Thus could you create a mentorship program for cab drivers? I think it could be a tremendous benefit. Most people just want to talk with you and not hear you on your cell phone. It’s not rocket science.

  5. The experience you just described with your cab driver proves that exceptional customer service and listening can make the difference in conversion. Was it that hard? I do think that the cultural barriers that exist with cab drivers (typically recent immigrants) is largely to blame for their lack of care.

    Thus could you create a mentorship program for cab drivers? I think it could be a tremendous benefit. Most people just want to talk with you and not hear you on your cell phone. It’s not rocket science.

  6. The experience you just described with your cab driver proves that exceptional customer service and listening can make the difference in conversion. Was it that hard? I do think that the cultural barriers that exist with cab drivers (typically recent immigrants) is largely to blame for their lack of care.

    Thus could you create a mentorship program for cab drivers? I think it could be a tremendous benefit. Most people just want to talk with you and not hear you on your cell phone. It’s not rocket science.

  7. Jann Freed says:

    Drew–Great post. Listening is one of my favorite topics to think and write about also–probably since few of us really do it. Are you familiar with Margaret Wheatley’s work? I like her newest book on Turning to One Another and Conversation. Thanks

  8. Stan Phelps says:

    Words to live by. I always like how you provide ‘real life’ examples to drive home the point (no pun intended).
    God gave us two ears and one mouth. The ability to listen and ask the right questions is essential in business.
    @9inchmarketing

  9. Hi, nice post. I have been thinking about this topic,so thanks for writing. I will definitely be coming back to your site. Keep up great writing

  10. Jay Heyman says:

    It is amazing to me how frequently, out of the infinite number of topics we might blog about, that we choose the same topics, often at the same time. For example, today. Check out http://tinyurl.com/nr3h39
    BEST,
    JAY

  11. Jess says:

    Thanks for this. Forwarded it to a colleague who has a car service as a client. It was a great way for her to make a connection with them.

  12. Nice little story. I don’t really ride in taxi’s but where I live in the UK the taxi drivers are very friendly and talkative. I’m going to make a special effort to take up your challenge and see where it gets me.

    Thanks.

  13. kanu says:

    The short answer is- most ideas you can think of are good enough to start a business around – in short you can probably make some money doing almost anything.

    The real question is whether or not your business idea is worth the risk, and will provide adequate reward if it works out. For sake of argument let’s say adequate return is enough money for you to live on, at least replacing your current income. Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.

    Simply put your unique selling proposition (USP) is the reason I’d buy from you and not a competitor.

    Continue Reading Steel Tarps

  14. Hi Drew,

    Great post. Everyone has a story. When you take the time to listen, you’re (almost) always rewarded. Yet it’s amazing how often people tune out instead.

    Sorry you missed Randy Johnson’s 500th win. I was supposed to be at that game too; sadly unable to make the makeup one. Let me know next time you’re in D.C., maybe we can catch a beer at a Nationals game. I’m often there.

    Best,
    Daria

  15. Lisa,

    It was also a reminder to me that we may think we know what the customer wants (some cab riders want quiet so they can talk on phone, others want restaurant tips, etc.) but unless we actually listen or ask questions– at best, we can guess.

    Drew

  16. Stuart,

    You’re right, not rocket science. I think that in many cases in many jobs…the job has become routine so the service delivery person (whoever that may be) has sort of forgotten a customer is involved. It’s rote for them…so they are just going through motions.

    It’s when they stay alert and actively participate – the listening can happen.

    Drew

  17. Jann,

    I don’t know Wheatley’s work. What do you appreciate most about it?

    Drew

  18. Stan,

    I’m sure it’s some sort of disease…but I see marketing examples wherever I do. I figure it’s a professional affliction after 20+ years in the business.

    I have a friend who is a chef. She can’t go into a restaurant without noticing every little thing about the food presentation, menu etc.

    Same thing, different perspectives. ;-}

    Drew

  19. Jay,

    Maybe we have some sort of marketing mind meld?! Great post!

    Drew

  20. Jess,

    Was it helpful for your friend?

    Drew

  21. Michael,

    Let us know how you did on the challenge!

    Drew

  22. Daria,

    Bummer that you missed the make-up game. I’m sure it was something to see.

    So are you a Nationals fan or just a baseball fan? It’s a beautiful stadium. I can understand why you’re there a lot!

    I’ll take you up on that beer one of these days!

    Drew

  23. i always tips good. i think this is a must.

  24. And more to the point…when the boss gets a lumpy package, who is going to risk opening it? What if it is something he ordered from a catalog you don’t want to know anything about?

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