Sense and Respond to Customers, Now and in the Future

Customers' expectations and behaviours are always evolving. Are you listening?

You now have the world’s best customer experiences and a fully aligned team, supercharged by incredible technology. For a moment, angels sing. And then something changes … but do you notice? Perhaps a competitor comes up with a better proposition, something breaks, or your customer simply changes their mind on what is good enough. How do you keep up with this change? Keep listening to your customers.

Why? Customers’ expectations and behaviours will continue to evolve, even after you perfect internal processes and connect silos. To continuously solve for their jobs to be done (see Chapter 2), you need to sense and respond to change better than your competition.

Create a data flywheel that fuels customer success

We've found that 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 beyond because our customers asked us to. Each Salesforce feature is prioritised according to demand.

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 whatever comes next with your own customers.

Get started: Embed customer listening in your business

Before you commit to too many changes, ask yourself and your peers two key questions:

  • 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.

How to learn more

Being a customer-centric company is no easy feat. Yet redesigning business practices, connecting silos, and making the right lean technology investments to rapidly sense and respond to customer needs may be among the most impactful and rewarding challenges you’ll take on in your career. They’ll also ensure that your company evolves and wins amid today’s pace of change. The urgency is real — and so is the potential.

Your journey toward customer 360 transformation starts with this playbook, but it doesn’t end here.

Want to start making meaningful connections today? Visit Customer 360 Guides on Trailhead, which include blueprints, architectures, and real-life tips that empower you to achieve your customer 360 transformation.

The first guide, Transform the Consumer Experience, walks you through how to deliver connected experiences across Commerce, Marketing, and Service even as teams are working remotely.

Ready for more? Keep the learning going with these additional resources for your path to customer centricity.


More Resources

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