Chapter 2: How You Make Decisions

Sense, Anticipate, and Respond

Your business practices are your company’s habits — repeatable behaviors that enable you to scale effectively. In a product-centric world, these business practices optimise how you manufacture, market, sell, and service your products. In a customer-centric world, you still need to do all of that, but you also have to think about those activities from the customer’s perspective.

Your goal: Make it easy for employees to make it easy for the customer.

Well-designed customer experiences have never been more relevant. Here’s the evidence, according to research:

The only way to deliver excellent experiences is to enable employees at every stage of the customer’s journey.

“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.”  
Dan Torunian
PayPal Vice President, Employee Technology
and Experiences and Data Centers

Look through the eyes of your customers and redesign what you’re asking them to do — at every touchpoint.

For example, think of how Uber redesigned the entire experience of getting a cab. They looked at every area of friction and simply removed it. No standing in the rain hailing a cab, no waiting to exit your ride to pay. At the same time, they made it easy for drivers to find riders. This combination of improved customer and workforce experience revolutionised an industry.

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.
See the Tableau Blueprint — a proven way to build your data culture.
Create a Data Flywheel That Fuels Customer Success
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.

Get Started: Embed Customer Listening in Your Business

The heightened stakes for customer expectations mean you have to solve for your customers’ job to be done in every moment. According to Harvard Business Review, your customers’ job to be done is “the progress that the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance – what the customer hopes to accomplish.”

By defining your customers’ jobs to be done, you’ll be in a better place to meet their needs and reconfigure your business practices to respond to their demands. This way, you’re staying focused on them, rather than your own products.

To deliver personalised and connected experiences at scale, you need to develop a holistic view of the customer and how they’re using your products and services to solve real challenges in their lives. Invest time in learning who your customers are and why they behave as they do.

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.

Key Actions to Take
  •  Establish a data culture and center of excellence.
  • Build employee training programs on data proficiency, provide unified access to relevant data sources, and foster a data community with a Center 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.

More Resources


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