BECOME A TOUGH AND TENDER LISTENER: A User’s Guide to REWARDING COMMUNICATION

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If you do need to charge more for a planned upgrade, then do some due diligence first. Customer engagement will improve customer loyalty. What is active listening? Customers are the lifeblood of any business. If you want your business to grow and stay healthy, you need to listen to whatever input your customers give you in their customer feedback. This will help improve your customer loyalty program. Gathering feedback from your customers and leads has never been easier.

You can use any one of the following methods. Even better, use a combination of a few methods to make it as easy as possible for them to speak up and share their opinions with you:. You might as well save your time and energy. The whole point of seeking input from customers and prospects is to figure out how you can better deliver what they most desire, ultimately to improve customer satisfaction and service quality, and to increase customer retention rates.

So ask questions to clarify their statements. Paraphrase their comments to them and ask them to agree or correct you — e. Be open to change.

How to Listen: A guide for marketers who want to know what their customers want

Are you still handling all your customer service tasks by yourself with random calls and emails? But your goal is bigger than that. The 1 reason for losing customers is unsatisfactory customer service. Whatever you can do to provide excellent support and service on a consistent and ongoing basis is a worthwhile investment. A high quality support service will help improve customer satisfaction and increase customer retention rates. But you have to be smart about support. What works for your competition might not be the best choice for you.

Ideally, you want to adopt a system for support that you can scale — one that grows with you. The ideal solution for your customer service needs is one that fits your budget, is easy for customers to use and fits into your overall business systems with a minimum of headache. Not every CS solution works well for every type of business. For instance, Zendesk is a popular choice with tiered pricing and a free demo. It could be perfect for you. But it might be more than you need.

Help Scout is email-centered and helps create a more structured system. Other options include Desk. If your customers are tech-savvy and somewhat younger, chat is often their preferred method of contact. But older customers may find a chat-based system frustrating. They tend to rely less on web-based technologies and prefer phone support.

So speak or write clearly and not too quickly. Answer the question as clearly as possible, and make sure you eliminate all jargon from your responses. Like most people, they want a lot of different things — some of them may even be contradictory. The way to do this is to embrace a philosophy of two-way communication. This proves to your customers you truly value their input and opinions and will help in building customer loyalty.

If you raise prices — as we all have to, on occasion — make sure the increase is appropriate and justified and give as much advance notice as possible. Alert customers to any significant changes, good or bad. Be clear and concise when explaining changes. This will ensure customer retention and maintain customer satisfaction. It takes 12 positive service experiences to make up for 1 negative experience.

Fortunately, Instagram had already figured that out. The company quickly responded to the outrage and reversed its decision, in order to retain customer loyalty. I mentioned some of this above in the section about customer feedback and active listening. If you want your customers to fall in love with your business, you have to commit to a certain degree of transparency. Being transparent might sound a little like being authentic, which we covered before, but this is different. Being authentic is about being yourself and being genuine. Being transparent is about being forthcoming, ethical, and trustworthy.

Believe it or not, customers actually reward transparent large and small businesses — even when what that transparency reveals is less than positive. Buffer App recently posted a stunning example of transparency. But mostly, the users are impressed! This has clearly increased customer engagement and improved brand loyalty. So what does it mean to be transparent in your business these days? Consider whether you might offer brief professional development sessions that bring potential members to the organization.

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Susan Forde, a researcher of alternative and participatory media at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, said that this approach has worked well in community radio. It is a variety show that takes a lighthearted look at state politics and features a mix of skits, videos, song parodies, and guest monologues. State political leaders and journalists join us. Minn- Post Social gatherings are less formal and intended to be break even. They differentiate between their sponsor-driven and editorially focused events.

Its staff publishes calls for audience questions for potential short investigations through its newsletter and social media channels. A small reporting team selects a question to answer and spends its lunch hour investigating it. At the end of lunch, the attendees report their findings via Facebook Live.

Reporters demonstrate how they use investigative reporting processes to answer audience questions, sometimes with the collaboration of the people who suggested the questions. Reveal reporter Amy Walters took the listener along in trying to find answers. List the people you will need for planning, day-of production, and participant follow-up. Brainstorm potential programming ideas and determine how you will fund the event, which may be the first in a series or a one-time gathering.

Because email is such a vital tool for raising reader revenue, consider how to design your events to gather as many email addresses as you can. A customer relationship management CRM database that is structured to reflect your conversion strategy will help you manage communications both during campaign time and after. We had two buckets of people—members and potential members. So we devised a communication plan and touch points for each, and designed exclusive benefits for those in the membership fold to keep them there.

Then we created in the database [a way] to keep members and non-member communications separate. Your communication strategy should create a sense of urgency and clearly communicate your goals. Mother Jones does this well: last year, the publication described the cost of financing its investigation into prison privatization.

The possibility of exhausting regular donors or members with frequent or duplicate requests for giving is a common concern among news sites. During campaign time, smart use of your site, your email management system, and your CRM should help you manage pledge-drive overload. The staff try to use humor in campaign messaging to disarm visitors.

VTDigger uses DonorTools as its CRM tool and regularly reviews its email list to de-duplicate subscribers who also comment before sending membership appeals. With each membership campaign, a staff member segments the master email list, tries to remove recipients who have given in the last twelve months, adjusts the message for each segment, and sends. Berkeleyside hosts four campaigns per year with one tied to holiday giving. Berkeleyside has also experimented with different campaign messaging.

Another message reminded readers how dependent they are on Berkeleyside for community news, something that members have regularly shared with the site. MinnPost has found social media to be largely ineffective for driving membership. Very few people click on donation links contained in the posts.

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During campaign time, basic good practices of fundraising apply: make the online donation experience as frictionless as possible. Publish your campaign messages in a human voice. If your CRM allows, send appeals that are based on specific giving history and ask existing supporters to increase their gifts by a small mount.

Turn off messaging to those who give; add a visible pop-up or light-box on your site when you are in campaign season; provide tax deduction information; and send prompt thank-you notes if a volunteer can hand write these, it may stand out from other direct mail. This allows you to plan the communications you want to send to segments of your recipient lists for maximum impact. Have visible calls to action and donation buttons on your site no one wants to hunt for these when they want to give.

Consider including a note in email signatures and newsletter footers about the member or donor-driven nature of your work. Making sure that interested individuals can find out how to participate and donate from your article pages is also important. Many publications also expressed concern about CRM tool selection and determining which user metrics matter most. Being able to manage your member data e. See the Shorenstein email report for good list management practices.

There are some key pieces of expertise for building a successful audience revenue program using a CRM tool that are often difficult to find in a single person, including strategic communications experience, database management skills, marketing experience, and customer loyalty experience. Those skills and experiences are often distinct from traditional fundraising skills. This means it can be difficult to build a strong membership program with just one person.

Introduction

When we listen to our customers, non-customers and readers, we can fix business problems using what they tell us. Intents and intent filters. If you are using native code, any data read from files, received over the network, or received from an IPC has the potential to introduce a security issue. And then? The human centered-design framework. Finally, engaged people need time to think, create, and rest.

So as you build a membership program, plan ahead with the goal of hiring more than one person to support the program over time. Database management is often the most difficult task facing publications launching membership programs because of the difficulty of learning CRM software and the ever-changing nature of the data itself. Migrating donor data from Excel into a CRM tool is a particular stumbling block that often holds publications back from being able to implement the strong audience revenue strategy they intend.

Some publications with solid CRM systems in place are thinking about analytics strategies that combine editorial and business-side metrics from their CMS, CRM, and email management software. This can involve creating bespoke software that can integrate data about reader behavior on-site with email newsletter consumption and giving history. High user expectations about receiving personalized information as fostered by habitual use of social media platforms and sites like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon are putting pressure on news organizations to collect and use data to deliver their coverage differently.

Opt-in user surveys are one option for collecting user data and they can be useful for identifying the patterns that might be leading visitors to convert to donors, subscribers, and members. Though the data will be self-reported, they can give you a sense of the range of supporter motivations for giving. These data can also help you segment and target users and can help you craft the language and timing of membership appeals. Understanding aggregate user behaviors from your site statistics or from third-party data from PodTrac or Nielsen will help you learn which types of coverage perform well.

MinnPost has been experimenting with linking on-site user behavior and self-reported data to membership conversion. There are important privacy considerations regarding the data you collect and use. Collect only the user data your organization needs immediately, such as on-site behaviors and geographic information that can be used for appropriate segmentation and messaging.

For more information, see information on the Privacy by Design framework , a defensive user protection approach. Many news sites have refrained from engaging in fundraising tactics such as sending advocacy and petition emails, renting email lists, and email list sharing. While these approaches have been very effective for nonprofits and political campaigns, journalism ethics and privacy policies have prevented many news publishers from pursuing them.

This debate is ongoing, and there may be an opportunity for some local and issue-based sites to adapt some of these advocacy-flavored tactics to their own purposes. Small-dollar philanthropy, which some organizations classify as efforts to solicit gifts under 1, dollars each as a parallel revenue stream to major gifts has shifted from focusing primarily on asking supporters for one-time donations to encouraging them to enroll in automatic billing charged monthly or annually.

News sites that accept donations and memberships this way say that auto billing reduces many of the overhead issues associated with seeking renewals. Some publications ask their members to give an extra gift for a special project or to include the publication in their annual giving list at the end of the year. Differences in how people give may reflect their emotional connections to publications and their journalism.

Melanie Coulson, executive director for member station services at Greater Public , described that one-time and lump-sum members often donate to pay for what they use which we think of as a utility mindset or to support a community resource that they value greatly. The best practices for email fundraising suggest that emails are no place to be shy about asking for contributions from readers—the advice is to ask firmly and ask often.

Oftentimes it takes work on the part of journalists to feel good about their work, and good about asking for money to support it. We encourage journalists to participate in the reader revenue generation process by making the case to readers for the quality of their work and its importance. And remind your readers that you need their support in order to provide the stories they rely on. For email fundraising, unsubscribes can be the price of stronger and more frequent asks.

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Yet this is not a reason to worry. This is not to say that every email should be topped with a donation request. That tactic is important during campaign time, but between campaigns you can use footers or signatures that remind readers that their support matters and how to donate. This conveys curiosity about their needs and a desire to improve your work for the audiences you serve.

Test different messages for supporters that emphasize the impact of their support on your reporting and news production. Expressing your gratitude consistently in your editorial and marketing, as well as in your organizational culture, promotes reliability and ongoing audience-centricity. Physical product gifts are among many possible ways to express gratitude to supporters. People do enjoy expressing their affiliation with physical items like hats, T-shirts, mugs, and bags. If you give them, ensure they feature your logo legibly.

But often non-physical membership benefits like events, behind-the-scenes newsletters, or seminars can be more impactful and valuable to members. Being in close touch with current, former, and potential supporters is the best way to learn whether exclusive member access is of greater interest than branded bags, for example. Below we shared some examples of how publications are thinking about balancing physical premiums and perks with other types of member benefits. Slate Plus editorial director Gabe Roth said that physical premiums have worked for the company.

MinnPost provides some member-specific coverage and on-site perks. We saw that some people cared about wrap around stuff off-site stuff and some just cared about the on-site experience and the content. We wanted a program that had a benefit at every level that would have strong appeal to each kind of user.

But there is an aggregation and curation function that we feel okay about. ProPublica provided an optional gift for donors in She said that seventeen percent of email recipients responded to receive gifts as of one month post-campaign. ProPublica emailed donors, after they had given, to offer a voluntary thank-you gift. In our interviews with publications, we were impressed with the number and quality of organizations that are taking members up on their interest in being involved by having them contribute in two ways: by helping organizations operationally and by aiding the journalism itself.

Public media stations have led the charge in having multiple opportunities for member volunteers to help out during events and pledge drives. We think this deepened involvement will point to long-term sustainability for publications that goes well beyond the campaign cycle. These sites are among the leaders in participatory member-supported journalism. Reporters learned that there was a great amount of interest in the topic of the museum budget and complications that resulted in a delayed museum opening, and this led the team to extend coverage more than they might have otherwise.

And we had people to call [on] once the stories ran. Krautreporter , a news cooperative in Germany, prioritizes working with different members based on their strengths. It asks them to share their hobbies and occupations when signing up, then uses the information that members offer to target the most relevant members with asks about specific stories. Publisher Sebastian Esser says that the site takes a non-precious but intentional approach to its membership.

This orientation toward members entails significant costs in staff and freelancer time, as well as systems to manage workflow. Staff who work on membership efforts in news frequently told us that they need better systems for identifying which audience members they might engage with for best returns, and for testing and tracking communications to different audience segments.

Sites such as De Correspondent in the Netherlands anticipate that its reporting staff will spend approximately one-third to half of its working time in communication with readers. While intensive, these sites find regular audience collaboration to be a good return on investment as it demonstrates concern for members and encourages more interactions, both of which aid its future journalism.

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The two-way engagement between publication and audience required to sustain a successful membership strategy can initially feel uncomfortable for reporters, editors, developers, and designers who have worked in traditional legacy institutions that maintain a clear boundary between newsroom staff and audience members. This boundary can be problematic in building a successful membership revenue strategy.

Gimlet invites members to offer feedback on its pilot podcasts. The New York Times is setting up a reader hub in its newsroom , a major change for the legacy outlet. De Correspondent writers told us about instances of readers providing invaluable tips, technical proofreading, connections to sources, and help drumming up interest in their reporting in advance of publication. Many of our interviewees shared that exchanges between members and newsroom staff have ultimately been very rewarding for both.

For example, Gabe Roth from Slate Plus said that editorial staff has participated in member-focused work with interest, even when it entails an extra twenty minutes in the recording studio creating bonus coverage for each episode. He said that he wants Slate political writers to feel validated by readers joining as members in high numbers after the U. The membership program growth was a testament to their reporting and the value people got from it, Roth said. Direct engagement with an audience that is also funding the work can be deeply meaningful to journalists in their everyday work.

I am always trying to think about who I am writing for and who the audience is. But when the audience was also the people who were giving us money and felt they had a stake in us, that meant they wanted to give us tips, and to tell other people about us. That kind of relationship has other psychic benefits for the newsroom that are hard to discount.

Becoming a member-supported operation requires significant leadership. At podcast network Radiotopia , founder Roman Mars invests a significant portion of his time in encouraging audience members to support the organization. All shows in the network rely heavily on audience participation, which includes global meetups throughout the year, regular listener call-ins, and several active social media groups made up of listeners and staff.

The decades-long decline in traditional and digital ad revenue is forcing publishers to shift their business models. In recent years, the news industry has seen an evolution as more legacy institutions, news startups, and nonprofit publishers have redesigned or launched membership programs. These endeavors strengthen their existing audience development efforts and provide opportunities for staff to work together across disciplines.

As Drs. In designing for audience revenue—building the series of interactions and touchpoints that turn a casual reader into a paying supporter—publishers face the difficulty of getting people to pay. They must offer usefulness and a mission that readers, listeners, and viewers want to support. We conclude from our research that news sites offering unique coverage and visibility into their processes are better poised to turn audience interest into revenue to grow their work. A spirit of experimentation aids this important work. We encourage your organization to consider multiple ways that supporters might participate in and further your work.

This includes but is not limited to revenue generation. Thanks also to the Religion News Service, whose initial request for an audience revenue strategy provided the starting point for the body of this report. We are especially grateful to Gonzalo del Peon for his hours of fact-checking, formatting, and citation work, and to Sally Goligoski for her copyediting help. Finally, we are deeply indebted to the journalists, editors, and publishers who took time to talk with us and share their important work creating the future of audience-supported digital journalism.

We are grateful to the institutions whose generous funding support made this work possible:. The Tow Center for Digital Journalism provides journalists with the skills and knowledge to lead the future of digital journalism and serves as a research and development center for the profession as a whole. By commissioning research in these emerging areas, and developing teaching methods and courses, the Center seeks to convene debate around the most pressing issues facing digital journalism today, and help individual journalists, news organizations, and areas of relevant media policymaking with their thinking and practice.

For more information, visit www. The Platforms and Publishers project at the Tow Center is a multi-year project researching the relationship between journalism and social platforms in order to promote mutual understanding and best practices for conducting journalism on the social web. The Platforms and Publishers project is underwritten by the John D.

MacArthur Foundation, John S. It is jointly funded by the the Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund. The project is delving into research on ways that organizations are diversifying their revenue with a particular focus on optimizing news organizations for trust. At the heart of the Membership Puzzle is the social contract between the organization, including journalists, and its supporters. The Institute for Nonprofit News is comprised of a network of over nonprofit media organizations in North America. The community shares best practices, collaborates on stories, pools resources, and receives cutting-edge training in professional, organizational, and business development.

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The Foundation initially focused its support on science and education projects in Michigan. With time, its multigenerational board has expanded into very diverse areas of grant making. Each Board member has developed new relationships based on personal areas of interest, and the Board is invested in each grant it makes.

Current giving relationships include programs to educate new parents, high school robotics, hunting and fishing for the disabled, and assisting with the everyday needs of young families battling cancer.

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Finally, engaged people need time to think, create, and rest. A well-known retailer, for example, sends workers home when the store is slow. Then, when things get busy, they return to the store. This company is one of the most profitable in its industry, in part, because slack time gives its workforce the freedom to take care of their home lives and put more effort into their work. It may seem counterproductive to let people take time off during the week, but in fact the opposite is true.

Overworked people tend to burn out, produce lower-quality output, provide lower levels of customer service, become depressed, and sometimes just flail around in their exhaustion. The second element of an irresistible organization is the one business and HR leaders think about the most: management.

In many ways, management is the most important capability we have. CEOs can create strategies, investors can optimize capital, and marketers can create demand, but when it comes to building products and offerings, serving clients, and developing internal processes, middle managers make things happen.

Investment in fundamental management practices has a tremendous impact on engagement, performance, and retention. In our review of engagement issues, the first area we found is the importance of simple, clear goals. When people have clearly defined goals that are written down and shared freely, everyone feels more comfortable, and more work gets done. Goals create alignment, clarity, and job satisfaction—and they have to be revisited and discussed regularly.

Goal setting is a challenge. Only 51 percent of companies even attempt to develop aligned goals, and, among these, only 6 percent regularly revisit them. We found that companies that revisit goals quarterly have threefold greater improvement in performance and retention than those that revisit goals yearly. High-performing managers create simple goals, make sure they are clear and transparent, and revisit them regularly.

Google, for example, uses an agile goal-setting process called OKR objectives and key results , which was originally developed at Intel. At Google, this creates alignment because employees can see who is dependent on their work. The second management practice that drives engagement is coaching.

While directed management is important, it plays a smaller role than one might think. It is the coaching and development role of management that is the most valuable. What makes a great coach? They invest heavily in management development and ensure that new leaders are given ample support. High-impact leadership organizations spend 1. The fourth issue is the need to simplify or reengineer the annual performance appraisal.

This process, which has been institutionalized in more than 75 percent of all the companies we visit, is among the most damaging and disheartening process employees face each year. Only 8 percent of surveyed companies think the process is worth the time they put into it, and the focus on rating and ranking takes the focus away from the coaching and development that people often desperately need. In many companies, the process does not involve enough continuous feedback, places too much weight on the actual rating, and often does not encourage hyperperformers to perform at an even higher level.

This culture of continuous development is a management culture widely used in high-engagement companies. The third major element of an irresistible organization is the need to build a flexible, humane, and inclusive workplace. Most employees today have complicated lives. Studies show that 68 percent of women would rather have more free time than make more money, and while 40 percent of professional men work more than 50 hours per week, 80 percent would like to work fewer hours. SAS, the No. Free food, yoga classes, happy hours, commute buses with Internet access, and even free laundry service have now become commonplace in high-pressure companies across a wide range of industries.

In addition to such benefits and employee wellness programs, research also shows that open, flexible workplaces have a major impact on engagement. They bring executives out into the open Mayor Bloomberg created an open work space in New York City, which was credited with bringing teams together to rapidly respond to city crises ; they enable people to meet more easily The new circular Apple campus is designed to encourage groups to meet others ; and they give people highly flexible places to work, depending on the way they feel on a given day Zappos lets employees work from local restaurants, where the company pays for Wi-Fi.

Research shows that introverts still want a quiet office, but modern workspaces give people the flexibility to be together or alone, depending on the task at hand. A second key engagement driver is the need for continuous and ongoing recognition. The key to success here is to create a social environment where recognition can flow from peer to peer, freeing managers from being the judge and jury of employee recognition.

Companies that build this culture see tremendous impact. When JetBlue implemented a peer-to-peer recognition system focused on company values, employee satisfaction surged by 88 percent. Finally, highly engaged workplaces are also inclusive and diverse: People feel comfortable being themselves. While 71 percent of organizations try to foster diversity and inclusion, only 11 percent have such an environment today. Diversity and inclusion is not an HR strategy; it is a business strategy. Not only do diverse workplaces attract people from a wider sample, research also shows that teams that operate in an inclusive culture outperform their peers by a staggering 80 percent.

How do organizations become more inclusive? Inclusion usually comes from the top: Leaders must overcome their unconscious biases and make every effort to listen, create open forums for discussion, and promote people with varied backgrounds gender, nationality, race, age who embrace listening and inclusive values. Our research shows that inclusion, unlike diversity, is a cultural issue—one that requires support from top-level leaders as well as all levels of management.

Most engagement research shows that learning opportunities, professional development, and career progression are among the top drivers of employee satisfaction. Employees under the age of 25 rate professional development as their number one driver of engagement, and this is the number two priority for workers up to age Building opportunities for growth is a complex and systemic challenge.

First, there must be developmental opportunities, both formal and informal, that let people learn on the job, take developmental assignments, and find support when they need help. This means designing onboarding and transition management programs, developing a culture of support and learning, and giving people time to learn. Second, a company must support and honor what we call facilitated talent mobility.

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Most people will not be promoted every year or two although high-potential Millennials often expect it , but they want to feel that they are growing and can take on new assignments in their chosen area. Managers and the company as a whole need to support and facilitate internal mobility, giving people the freedom to try something new and move from a role where they are highly productive to one where they may be a trainee again.

Finally, organizations must look at their management and leadership behaviors to make sure that learning, development, and mobility are rewarded. Organizations with a strong learning culture are 92 percent more likely to develop novel products and processes, 52 percent more productive, 56 percent more likely to be the first to market with their products and services, and 17 percent more profitable than their peers.

One of the best examples of a learning culture is what happens in a retail environment. Most customers have been in stores where employees are trained and empowered. As soon as something is missing or perhaps hard to find, the employee figures out where it is, finds the right size, and helps customers complete a purchase. Unempowered employees who are not cross-trained, however, may just tell customers to ask someone else.

A major home improvement retailer studied store-by-store performance and found that teams that cross-train their sales leaders regularly are generating 10—15 percent higher revenue and as much as 20 percent higher engagement scores.