Chapter 5: Sense and respond to find resilience.

Learn how to make partner and customer feedback a part of your company's DNA.

Picture this: You are delivering the best partner and customer experiences thanks to a fully aligned ecosystem and incredible technology. Success! Then something changes. If there’s anything 2020 has taught us, it’s that manufacturers need to be ready for anything. It could be as widespread as a global pandemic or as specific as a channel partner becoming a competitor. Maybe a competitor launches a new product sold as a service or your buyer changes their mind about your relationship. No matter what happens, you need to keep up with change. Partner and customer expectations and behaviors are in a constant state of motion. Even after digitizing operations, you need to sense and respond, finding resiliency for your organization. How? By focusing intently on earning and re-earning trust. Partners and customers show their trust in two connected ways: money and data. The best way to earn more data is to analyze what you have and turn it into insights, which become the foundation for improved experiences.

Get started: Listen to your partners and customers.

Have you listened intently to partner and customer feedback recently? Make listening a part of your company’s DNA to ensure you stay hyper-focused on their evolving needs.
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 trend lines.

4. Operationalize insight reviews. Integrate partners and 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 and enables real-time collaboration between employees, channel partners, and customers. A sensing tool or machine layered on top of your qualitative feedback is one of the most effective ways to unlock intelligent 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 recognizing 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 any “old school” ways of working to drive more value for your partners and customers? Get serious about uniting your marketing, commerce, sales, service, product, and IT teams to actually hear what partners and customers are saying and make changes.

Move from …

  • Random, siloed data
  • Waterfall processes
  • Few, big bets
  • Risk aversion and bureaucracy
  • Expert opinion

To …

  • A single platform for an agile response
  • Real-time data-driven insights
  • Many little bets
  • Psychological safety and experimentation
  • Feedback from the field

Conclusion and how to learn more.

Many manufacturers are already rapidly accelerating their digitization strategies, while others are just beginning their journey. Redesigning business processes, connecting silos, and investing in low-code and no-code technology to rapidly sense, respond, and find resilience for your organization may be one of the rewarding challenges in your career.

As the pandemic taught us, the urgency for digitization is real in manufacturing — and so is the potential. Your journey toward digital optimization may have just begun with this playbook, but it doesn’t end here. Keep learning more with these resources.


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