“I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.” 
Lee Iacocca

In conversations with a colleague in the board room or your friend at the dinner table, the most important thing you can do is be an active listener. Executive leadership workshops advocate that managers need to be better listeners, but I say we need to go further: Companies need to be active listeners.

 
Every good conversation starts with good listening, and companies are not being active listeners in the most important relationships they have, the ones with their customers. Conversations between customer and company are most often one sided, initiated by the company, and held in the communication channel of its choice. Coupons for oil changes are sent by snail mail. Event calendars show up in email. Dinner for two offers arrive in mobile apps. The list continues: there’s the real-time web chat, telemarketing, and multi-page FAQs (don’t kid yourself, these FAQs scream we don’t want to hear from our customers or interact with them if at all possible).
Some companies have taken a good first step toward improving their listening skills by letting customers select the communication channel that works best for them. Airlines, as you have most likely experienced, have done a nice job letting customers choose from SMS, email, or phone call for alerts on flight delays or changes.
While this is good customer-first progress, the next step is to make these communications more intelligent by adapting the channel to the message. Banks are almost the perfect business model for this integrated communication strategy, but every market would benefit from more flexible, customer-centered communications. For a banking example, let’s say my new statement is ready. I don’t want to be woken by an email or SMS in the middle of the night that tells me the statement is available. That message can wait until business hours. On the other hand, if my debit card was used in Lithuania (especially when I am not in that country) to charge the maximum amount, I want an SMS and a phone call and an email no matter what the time of day it is!  
When the message aligns with the channel, companies will be actively listening and intelligently communicating with their customers. Today’s approach is ridiculously fractured and has a frantic, jump-on-the-bandwagon, me-too feel.
Customers like SMS? We can do that! Let’s buy a platform.

You can build a mobile app? Let’s do that too!

Email performance is down? Stop the campaigns.

Suddenly you have a Frankenstein of communications that doesn’t serve anyone well. What’s worse is that you can count on these separate initiatives being overinvested or underinvested. In rushing to join the latest and greatest, an overall communication strategy and financial oversight are lost.
 
Communication as a Service has the potential to simplify and unite communications so companies can be active listeners and respond accordingly. It also addresses the hugely popular communication channels of social media and over-the-top messaging. Companies can’t ignore Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and all the other fun apps people enjoy using to communicate with their personal tribes.
CaaS moves all communications to the cloud and centralizes customer communications so that customers can interact in their chosen channels—and companies can actively listen to what they say.
In an upcoming blog, ’ll share some of our concrete plans on this topic starting with DCODE Berlin. 
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