Your organisation needs to win the race for relevance.
You need to be able to sense, anticipate, and respond to changes in your customers’ needs. This will enable you to stop treating every customer interaction with you as if it were their first.
You’ll start by organising yourself around their profile, identifying more specific contextual opportunities to expand what you can cross-sell and upsell. This will then prepare you to expand beyond commodity transactions by understanding the broader “job to be done.” You’ll be able to identify adjacencies you don’t currently serve and expand into those broader areas or more closely partner with an ecosystem, for example life interests, education, health, financial wellbeing.
“What the employee wants hasn’t changed dramatically. They want to get their job done, know what’s going on with their organisation, and advance in their career. We learned not to let leadership hierarchy interfere. Let the leaders on the ground make the decisions best for them.”
This means auditing who your customers are and what their needs are. You need to think about how you earn this data from your customers, as you are incrementally building trust. You need to integrate the data together to create useful insights. And then you need to share it across the right teams, often breaking down a historical culture of hoarding where people believe “information is power.”
This is not about flooding the company with dashboards. How you visualise those data as actionable insights, share it, and collaborate around it becomes your data culture.
The stronger this data culture is, the more decisions your teams can make, faster — and the better your customers will reward you with more data. The more this happens, the greater your ability will be to understand and anticipate your customers’ needs before they do.
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The best companies focus intently on earning and re-earning customers’ trust. Customers show their trust in two connected ways: They give you their money and their data. The best way of earning more data is by using existing data to generate insights that become the DNA of improved experiences — which, in turn, earns you more data. And so the flywheel keeps spinning as long as you deliver what the customer wants: experiences that feel as effortless as possible.
When Salesforce was founded in 1999, we offered only a small fraction of the technology we offer today. We grew into customer service, marketing, ecommerce, and more because our customers asked us to.
Our whole business is predicated on listening and delivering. Customer feedback is the engine that drives us — and it’ll help you evolve, too, for what comes next with your own customers.
Before you commit to too many changes, ask yourself and your peers: What stories are our customers telling us? Have we listened deeply to customer feedback recently? Embed customer listening into your company’s DNA to ensure transformation efforts are hyper-focused on their needs.
To prioritise where to ignite change, it’s best to get an understanding of top needs for each customer persona. Here are some of the best practices Salesforce follows:
1. Create a voice-of-the-customer function. The right program will have both business-focused research leaders and a neutral reporting structure. That way, the team responsible for delivering improvements isn’t also keeping score. Get feedback from customers to establish a baseline and set a single improvement goal as your starting point.
2. Invest in listening at every level. Target all personas in your ecosystem. Which customer groups experience the most pain? Which drive the most revenue? Who are your greatest brand advocates? Don’t fear their feedback.
3. Integrate insights into one narrative. Tell one story behind the numbers. Just as you want to balance your listening across channels, you want to balance your data with a story. Listening tours, advisory boards, and focus groups bring color and context to scorecards and trendlines.
4. Operationalise insight reviews. Integrate customers into strategic planning, and assign an accountable owner to each metric or measurement that stems from what you learned when listening. Does the executive team plan future products or programs at an offsite or every Monday morning? Wherever planning takes place, save a seat at the table for the customer’s voice.
5. Invest in intelligence and automation to drive accountability. Automating analysis and reporting saves your team valuable time. A sensing tool or machine layered on top of your qualitative feedback is one of the most effective ways to unlock insights.
6. Inspire a customer listening movement. Sometimes the team sharing customer feedback is perceived as the “bad news” team. Instead, motivate your team and your stakeholders to stay engaged and keep acting on customers’ needs by recognising results and rewarding teams that become listening champions.
7. Close the loop with your customers. Listening means you need to communicate. It’s unrealistic to take action on every piece of feedback, and customers don’t expect you to do everything they ask. But they do expect to hear back from you on what you are doing, what you’re not able to do, and what else you need from them for a successful partnership.
Designate enough time and resources to rethink your current sense-and-respond capabilities and make a change. How can you evolve the legacy patterns on the left to the greater-value practices on the right? Get serious about uniting your marketing, sales, commerce, service, and IT teams to actually hear what customers are saying and make changes.
Throughout this process, cultivate an environment of psychological safety as a leader. Give teams the freedom to experiment and learn, and ensure everyone feels safe to offer criticism and share what’s not working.
- Establish a data culture and centre of excellence.
- Build employee training programs on data proficiency, provide unified access to relevant data sources, and foster a data community with a Centre of Excellence.
- Ensure that all teams incorporate insights from data and experiments back into the business.
- Create defined feedback loops.
- Develop listening mechanisms to capture, understand and respond to feedback that’s both internal from employees and external from customers and stakeholders.
- Align on a process to collect, view and socialise progress so teams are aware of timelines and KPIs.
- Build in flexible, iterative cycles.
- Have an iterative planning process that allows for regular retrospectives and incremental improvements.
- Ensure budget planning is part of that flexible process so that improvements can be resourced effectively.