147. It’s expensive to not hear.

Why is it that The Habit of Hearing is so elusive for many?

I recently watched an interview with the CEO of a multibillion dollar international fulfilment house.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a fulfilment house is a company that warehouses and then ships goods for many companies. In other words, they will fill the orders we submit through the Internet, by telephone or through other means.

Fulfilment centres are usually gigantic warehouses filled with goods from many companies and they employ highly sophisticated technology to track and move goods through the warehouse for distribution and delivery to your front door.

They move tens of thousands of individual items every single day and the vast majority are delivered without incident to the correct address.

That is not always the case and many items – a tiny percentage of those shipped – are returned to the fulfilment centres.

The CEO was commenting on the primary causes of items being returned.

As can be expected, the main reason for products being returned is quite simply customer dissatisfaction with the product received and his comment was that, as a fulfilment centre they bore no responsibility for these items being returned.

There was however the second biggest reason for items being returned and this was one of great concern to the CEO.

As I listened to him discuss this second reason it brought to mind not only the importance of The Habit of Hearing but also the enormous costs incurred when we fail to adopt that habit for our own.

The second biggest reason which translated into thousands upon thousands of items being returned requiring the fulfilment centre, at its cost, to restock these items and ship others, was quite simply the result of the operator on the order desk choosing not to hear what the customer was saying to them.

We are all familiar with that automated voice telling us, “This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes,” and he told us that their own internal investigation – listening to the recordings of what customers actually said and comparing them to information the operators placed into the order system – revealed that The Habit of Hearing was an unfamiliar one to many of his staff members.

An even greater cost was incurred by his company whenever an operator entered an incorrect address into the system for rarely were those incorrectly delivered products returned to the fulfilment centre by the person to whose residence or office they had been delivered.

According to him more than 50% of people who receive incorrectly labelled products simply keep them for themselves which means that not only is his company required to cover the cost of shipping a second product to the correct address, they also have to pay for acquiring the product.

To combat this challenge, he hired a consulting firm to develop “Hearing Training” for his staff and those responsible for taking orders over the phone are now required to attend these sessions twice a year.

Supervisors have been trained to deliver impromptu “hearing tests” to their staff members in order to measure their skill levels and make sure they are hearing, not just listening.

The real shocker was when he said that the cost of listening to, but not hearing, what the customer was saying was more than $3 million per year.

Three million dollars is a staggering sum of money to throw away for no other reason than because we are far better at listening then we are at hearing.

So please hear me when I tell you that The Habit of Hearing may well cost you more than you will ever know if you choose to pretend you already have it mastered.

Do you hear what I’m saying?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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