How to improve your online business – listen

Bold researchers speaking at the University of East Anglia today have revealed that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (a popular psychological treatment technique) may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Indeed, some studies suggest that CBT is just as useful as other, less popular therapies, like “psychodynamics”.

It all reminds me of a study on eradicating the fear of public speaking. Nervous speakers were allocated to three groups. One group received CBT, one group received Neuro Linguistic Programming training and a third group had no help at all. The results showed that the reduction in nervousness and a boost in confidence was equal across all three groups. In other words, CBT and NLP had the same impact as doing nothing. Sometimes, things get a fancy name and we suddenly believe they are wonderful, only to find we were merely impressed by the acronym. SEO…? I digress…!

CBT is one of the “talking” therapies. Psychologists or therapists guide clients and help them “deal with their issues” by talking about them. A recent post-9/11 study actually suggested NOT talking about things is better for you. Indeed, there is growing evidence that it’s not “talking” that makes you better when you have a psychological problem – but “listening” instead. The stiff upper lip might be a good idea after all.

All of these recent raft of studies goes to emphasise the importance of listening. There’s the old cliché that we have two ears and only one mouth, so we should spend twice as much effort on listening as we do on talking. But listening is important.

Take the case of Dell, for instance. They set up a “listening” web site called Ideastorm. Here, Dell customers could discuss ideas for improving products or for new products. They can vote on the ideas and comment on them. The result has been the incorporation of over 50 ideas from customers to Dell products and services. The Google Blogger, Matt Cutts, also recently emphasised the value of listening.

Most online businesses appear to think that the web is one-way; they forget that customers want to engage – they want to be listened to. So how much does your web site listen? What opportunities do your customers and potential customers have to be listened to on your web site? It might not be therapy, but if you demonstrate you are truly listening to them, it will certainly make your customers feel a whole lot better.

Listening to your online customers is much more important than any three letter acronym – including SEO.

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