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Why listening is our most important customer tool

By Chris Hobbs, Customer Experience Manager

Most businesses of a significant size will have a customer experience statement or publicly include customer elements in their values.

But, without the appropriate effort and support at the company’s top table, this is merely paying lip service.

In a business like Great Annual Savings Group (GAS), we know swathes of quantitative information about our customers.  You can interrogate and dissect this data in whichever way you see fit.  Indeed, it is possible in any company to manipulate customer data to support theories or internal arguments as to why a certain course of action should be taken.

Quantitative assessment is essential.  However, the best customer experience teams go further than this and ensure they place ample focus on a more human and qualitative approach as well.

How often do you have a human conversation with your customers and whose responsibility is this?  Phoning a customer primed with a set script and a marks-out-of-five questionnaire is likely to lead to a limited conversation.

Whilst it is not always possible or practical, having a human conversation with customers not only gives you a chance to find out more about what motivates them; it can lead to a greater level of insight.  Effectively, it allows staff to put themselves into a customer’s shoes and go beyond satisfaction scores to truly understand their own business and what it is like to interact with.


Great Annual Savings Group (GAS) offers business customers more than 13 different cost reduction services.  But that wasn’t always the case.  Whilst GAS is now the UK’s most diverse cost reduction specialist, we started life focusing only on energy procurement.

As our customer focus grew and staff spent more time listening to customers, we diversified into new areas of procurement and cost reduction to meet their needs.  As we spoke to customers about their contracts and delivered a service to a standard they wanted more of, they began to ask whether we could help with more of their variable cost headaches.

If our customer-facing didn’t listen effectively, they would have been blinkered into having customer experience conversations based solely around energy contracts.

GAS’ wide range of variable costs is now one of our unique selling points (USPs) and led to the business’ strapline of: “saving you more, on more”.

This is the perfect blend of marketing and customer experience; and it has undeniably contributed to the growth of GAS from 30 staff in a small office to 300 staff all over the country.

If our customer experience staff had followed a 10-question script about how well their energy needs were met and how they rated each aspect of an energy contract, would they have ever found our that customer was worried about their phone system costs?  It’s certainly less likely.


  • Most CRMs allow qualitative data to be input, but how much focus does your business put on this element?
  • Many businesses have customer experience calls, but are your staff empowered to truly listen in these?
  • Are your customer experience staff seen as a feeder or a lead generator for your sales staff? Is there a process for them to recommend strategies to increase loyalty and retention?


Listening seems a potentially ‘fluffy’ exercise, but effective customer listening can undoubtedly lead to hard-edged, tangible outcomes as well as intangible benefits for relationships.  For this reason, simply being empowered to listen is the most effective tool in the customer experience armoury.

Whilst the GAS example above is a fairly long-term instance, it is on a day-to-day level where there is a huge amount of value to be had.  As businesses grow and customer numbers increase this becomes harder.  But making time for staff to have these conversations not only gives the business more intelligence, it helps maintain that “personal touch” to nurture customer relationships more effectively.

As we know, this contributes towards one of the most important KPIs of a customer experience team: retention.


Photo of Chris HobbsAbout the author:

Chris Hobbs has more than a decade of experience in customer relationship and complaints strategy.  He has worked for some of the UK’s most recognisable brands, including Tesco Bank and Direct Line Group. 

Chris believes in a “get it right first time” motto and has been a key individual in creating a customer-centric approach at Great Annual Savings Group, as well a customer journey remodel and the growth of the Group’s value-added services.

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Paul JohnsonGroup Financial Director

Paul Johnson is very much a home-grown talent.

He joined Great Annual Savings Group in its infancy, fresh from a youth career as a professional footballer with Hartlepool United.  He quickly established a reputation within the business and aced all required accountancy qualifications in the space of four years to become the Group’s Management Accountant.

Several successful projects later, Paul was promoted to Head of Finance.  When the former FD left GAS, he took on the mantle of the business’ most senior finance professional; boasting a string of incredible achievements all under the age of 30.


“I have witnessed phenomenal growth at the Group over the many years I’ve worked here and I’m looking forward to guiding the Group into an exciting new chapter.”

Interesting fact:

Paul made his professional debut for Hartlepool United against Bournemouth in the Football League.  Some say Danny Ings still resides in his pocket to this day.