Customer Experience & Innovation, by MAUREEN ODERA

Before Innovation

A logical starting point in the process of innovation is to understand your customers' problems. Problems which you cannot rely on your customers to tell you unless you ask them. Even then, the information collected from customer feedback is only as useful as the questions you ask. After conducting surveys amongst your clientele, feedback received often merely relays customer attitudes towards their experiences with current products or services. The results display if your customers like what you are already offering but not quite what they need. Notions are based on past and not future experiences. The customer describes what he or she knows and not what they need if your do not seek their pain points and look for solutions along their life experience.

While design thinking helps to uncover the solution, many executives fail to utilise the immense resource of their own inhouse client service personnel to form the bridge between innovation and the customers' needs. The essence of innovation is that it relies on the innovator to unlock the less ordinary to create something new. The core objective of innovation is to meet an unmet need. Your customer service staff often retain immense knowledge of customer pain points because they receive complaints directly. Many firms do not incorporate adequate feedback mechanisms to capture the wealth of inhouse knowledge.

How then do you innovate with your customer services staff?

  • Identify the underlying need or problem.

Establish customer service staff as the first line of defence in keeping on top of customer needs. It may sound obvious, but is rarely incorporated. Once you unlock the customers' pain points through design thinking, then the key to innovation lies in your ability to discover the root cause of the problem. Do not rely on your assumptions to know the causes. Conduct actual investigations. A little bit of cost expenditure early on saves you mountains of losses in failed or ineffective products later.

  • Do not fear the failure cycle.

Be prepared to fail several times before coming up with an optimum solution. When projecting, do not assume you will achieve an optimum product or service after an initial trial. Remember trails come with errors and that is good. Celebrate the learning that comes even with failures. Further, do not punish your staff for innovation failures during the cycle. Evaluate every solution after roll out and identify what elements to keep and what to do away with. Flexibility during this stage is strongly encouraged.

  • Solutions.

Solutions should make things easy for the client. Solutions do not have to alter the entire process. Amending a step in the process could make a world of difference, something as simple as the client having ease of access to information.

Maureen Odera