Ep. #62: The Voices You’re Ignoring

Do you know of a business that ignores its customers? Their complaints fall on deaf ears. If you don’t have the business and body you want, chances are good there are some voices you’re ignoring that are trying to tell you some very important things. Listen to this episode to hear about a small, barely discernable voice that I finally heard, and how it profoundly changed my relationship with my body.

TRANSCRIPT:

Welcome to Rich & Thin™ Radio, the only podcast that helps you achieve the true freedom that comes from earning more and weighing less. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth and if you’re feeling too weighed down to earn what you want, live where you want, do what you want, and ultimately live the life that you want, then you’re in the right place. This is the show for you.

Last time we talked about the intolerably high cost of making ineffective offers and what that can do to your business. We said that bad offers aren’t free—they can burn your network in ways that have far-reaching consequences—and we also said that very few people will come right out and tell you when an offer is ineffective.

Today I want to expand on this a bit, because although people won’t come right and say when an offer isn’t working, they will make noises that hint at that. They’ll give off signals. The signs can be so subtle, but if you look for them, they’re there. I’m sure we can all think of a few examples where a business owner was repeatedly warned about something, but ignored the signs, and they do this at their peril. And so today I’m going to start out by talking in business terms, but then I’m going to tell you how this relates to your body. If you’re paying attention, you know that this is our body episode for this week, and I promise, there’s a profound and significant but not terribly obvious connection between the voices we ignore in our businesses, and the voices we ignore with our bodies, and at the end of this episode, I’m going to highlight that parallel and share a realization about the connection that has had a profound effect on my relationship with my body, and it should help all of us in all aspects of our wealth creation.

So now let’s dive in.

Businesses often turn a deaf ear on complaints

To start out today, I’d like to ask if you’ve ever noticed how some businesses turn a deaf ear to complaints. If, as a consumer, you take the time to tell them, “Here’s what’s happening, I thought you might like to know,” how do they respond?

The best businesses will take your feedback and use it to reconfigure or fix whatever’s causing the problem. Mediocre businesses will listen to what you have to say, and pat your hand and stare sympathetically into your eyes, but when push comes to shove, they do nothing to fix whatever the problem is. They just continue on with business as usual, and expect to spend time placating angry customers from time to time, because they don’t really fix things.

The worst businesses will argue with you. They’ll tell you that whatever you’re concerned about is not a problem at all.  They’ll tell you that you’re the one with the problem. These are the businesses that may do well in the short run or even in the medium-term, but they do not succeed over the long haul, because these are the businesses that get sued. They’re the businesses that regulators pursue for violation of consumer protection laws. They’re the businesses that do not enjoy referrals. Instead, these are the businesses that people warn you about. They’ll say, “I spent x number of dollars at that company, and it was all wasted. Don’t let this happen to you.”

Is your business making excuses?

So now think about your own business. Is your business making excuses? If you were your own customer, what would you complain about?

If it’s difficult to do this from your own perspective, try stepping into the shoes of your customers. Think about them. What are they signaling to you about your business, in spoken and unspoken ways?

First consider what goes unsaid. When your customers are not speaking, what are they doing? Are they moving closer to you, or further away? Are they referring their friends, or are they falling off the face of the earth, as far as your business is concerned? Do they do business with you one time, and then you never hear from them again?

Now think about what they’re saying. When they do say something, what is it? What are they talking about? This is key, because I promise you, if you pay close attention to what is said, you’ll get clues about what their complaints are. In the last episode we discussed how few people will openly criticize. They don’t want to burn up their time or mental energy evaluating your problems or assessing how to fix them. They don’t want to risk their relationship with you being candid about what they think the problems are. But if you listen carefully, you can hear criticism embedded in their speech.

So here’s an example. Recently I was working with a client on tightening up their marketing message. They had a PowerPoint presentation that was way too long. If this message had been a book, it would have been one of those books that gets reviews that say, “This book should have been a magazine article.”

So I was talking with the client’s marketing director about this presentation, and saying, it’s way too long and it’s completely unnecessary for it to be this long, because you have these shorter pieces that are distilled. They convey the powerful points in your message in far less time and in far punchier, more appealing ways. Your audience can process these shorter pieces, and understand your message without you burning their time or putting them to sleep in this longer presentation.

A highly distilled message matters these days, because with information coming at us from all sides, we all have the attention span of a gnat. But the client’s marketing director disagreed with me about cutting this longer presentation. He said, “No, you don’t get it. We have to have this long presentation because it’s what our clients expect.” And I asked, “Well then why do you also have these shorter, more distilled pieces?”

And he said it was because the people who are sitting through the long presentations at the end are saying, “Do you have something that’s more to the point? Because I have to take this offer back to my supervisors before we can green-light this purchase, and they’re not going to tolerate this lengthy presentation. I need to give them something shorter that they can understand quickly.”

So notice what’s happening here. These people are communicating, these people who are sitting through the long presentation, are communicating to the extent they feel able, that the presentation is too long.

Few people in a professional setting or even a social setting will advocate for themselves in a really overt way. They won’t look at their watches and say, “Can you get to the point? Because if I don’t understand the value you’re bringing in the next five minutes, this meeting is over.”

But even if they’re not saying it, they are thinking it. And if they won’t advocate for themselves, most people will not do that, if they won’t protect their own time, they will do it for their supervisors. For the bosses who sign their paychecks.

So when a client asks you for something, notice this in your own business, even if it’s not couched as criticism, pay attention. If it’s a request, pay attention to what’s underneath the request.

My client’s marketing director was thinking that people want to sit through a long presentation when a shorter one would easily suffice. This is clearly a thought error, right? “I want you to spend forty-five minutes telling me something that could be said in five,” is something that no one said ever. No one wants this. And the people he was dealing with, the prospective customers who were sitting in on the long presentations, didn’t want it either. And they were saying to him, in the most transparent way they felt comfortable with, that the long presentation was inhibiting the sales process. That’s why they were asking for a shorter presentation so they could take the product further up the food chain.

But the marketing director didn’t see that, because of his thoughts on the subject, and often this reluctance is also because it’s more work to distill an idea into five minutes than to dance around it for forty-five and hope the other person picks up on the point even if you as the presenter can’t quite boil the message down to its essence.

So what I hope you’re gleaning from this is that if your business is anything less than what you’d like it to be, there are probably some voices you’re not listening to. They’re voices you’re blocking out, because the voice in your head about how you think things should go—these are your thoughts—generally are a lot louder than the small voices in which your customers speak. Also in your head, you don’t speak in code, and that’s what customers do. They convey their criticism to you in code, because the code is what feels polite and professional. Everything they say to you is veiled with politeness.

And what I’d like you to notice here is that the business that listens to its customers with its ear to the ground, that listens very closely, is the business that will thrive. I remember when I worked in a very successful restaurant in Missoula, Montana during undergraduate school. Shout out to you, The Depot, which is owned by Mike Munsey. Mike Munsey, the owner of that restaurant, would bus tables all night long. He’d hear everything. People thought he was just the busboy, and he’d know if people weren’t eating the veal. He’d know which waiters were getting big tips, and which waiters were getting complaints. If you want to know what’s happening in your business, act as if you’re the busboy. Listen as if you’re cracking a safe. You’ve got a stethoscope against the door and you’re straining to hear those tiny clicks as you move the dial, and the reason you do this because no one is going to scream at you to fix things in your business. Maybe a few people will. Most people will simply take their business elsewhere, so you have to listen for these very faint voices of complaint, criticism, and concern very carefully, and when you hear them, you need to treat them as if they’re a neon sign flashing right in your face.

Your body is a customer—listen for the complaints

Now you may be asking, great, that’s great for business, but how does this relate to my body? And here I want to share with you another recent epiphany on my way to my dream weight of 105 pounds. I’ve been on the alert for any situation in which I’m eating when I don’t really want food, because I have to solve for that problem if I’m going to reach my dream weight, and the other day I was wondering if I wanted more pancakes. In Episode 59, recall that I spoke about the day that I took back my power, as far as pancakes were concerned. I’d been thinking that I couldn’t touch them, because once I started I wouldn’t be able to quit. But I questioned that, and I made half a batch, put half of that in the fridge, and with the other half, the quarter batch, I made three pancakes, which I ate and enjoyed but later felt pretty yucky. And that day was a victory for me, because I realized I could stop at a defined number of pancakes, I was the one with the power, not the pancake. So, huge win in my mind management efforts.

But notice this: there was still the batter for another three pancakes in the fridge. And as it relates to that batter, I was wrestling with myself—make and eat those pancakes, too, or not? So one day I was standing at the stove, outwardly, by all appearances, I looked like I was going to make and eat the pancakes, but inside there was turmoil. Do I really want these? I recalled feeling terrible the last time I ate them.

But my brain, the loud part of my brain that I’m equating to the “business owner” in this story, this part of my brain that wants to not pay attention to complaints, and pretend everything is fine, was saying, let’s just keep going with these pancakes, let’s just keep doing what we’ve been doing, was insisting that we have the batter, and by Golly we’re going to use it. We’re not going to waste this resource.

And then I heard the tiny little voice, coming from my body, which is the customer in this story that I’m telling, and it was saying, “Please. Not again.”

It was so quiet. So faint it was barely discernable, because it was a voice with no power. It was just pleading, just as a customer would plead when they’re at the mercy of a giant corporation that just doesn’t care and is running roughshod over them. This voice was pleading to be treated well, even if the pleas are going to fall on deaf ears. It was just asking.

But somehow, I heard this voice. And I’ve been thinking about why I was able to hear it in that particular moment, and I think it’s because I had just gotten off the phone with a service provider who wasn’t providing service, but who was actually making my life more difficult than before I’d hired her. And in the conversation with her, I was saying, “Look, these are the problems.” And she said, “No one has complained but you. You must be the one with the problem.” And as I was standing there contemplating making the pancakes, I was thinking, how many of her customers are thinking exactly the same thing I am, but no one is saying anything, and so she’s running roughshod over all of us?

And in that moment, I realized that my brain was doing the same thing to my body as far as the pancakes were concerned. I was at risk of not listening at all. Since I started the show and we started exploring the parallels between good business and having the body you want, in Rich & Thin™ Workshop, I’ve known the connection was huge, and it’s getting more and more apparent to me all the time. But this was such a huge epiphany for me I stood there in the kitchen just vibrating with the realization of what a horrible business owner I’d been, as far as my body was concerned. It was such a moment, I can’t even tell you. If my body were my customer, it would have fired me a long time ago. But my poor body is captive. It has nowhere to go. It’s been locked in an interminable services contract with my brain, and it’s been suffering for a long time as a result, because a long time ago, my brain just stopped listening.

So here’s what I have for all of us to consider this week. If we’re going to succeed in business, we must listen to and serve our customers. If we’re going to succeed with our health, with our bodies, it’s exactly the same thing—we have to listen, and we have to serve.

So I hope this is helpful for you. I’m making some huge discoveries on my Rich & Thin journey this year, and I hope you’re doing the same. I also want to thank you for being here and I look forward to talking with you next week.

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