Innovation, we hear this buzzword a lot that it somehow lost its context for many businesses. Just what does it truly mean these days? With hundreds to thousands of new products out there, the rules of competition are tougher than ever. This time, you have to look at the bigger picture and shift your focus to your customers. To ignore customers’ experience of your product means a death sentence for your business.


Product Innovation: It’s Not What You Think That Matters!

The race for the next shiny object is real and those who are creating products that they ‘think’ their customers will need are likely to fail. There have been a lucky few who have tested their riskiest assumption without ever verifying with their potential buyers or existing customer base. However, only by asking and listening to these customers can you only build trust, that you can really solve their problems with your creation.

Last week, I’ve got a chance to answer a question for the London Tech Week. Empathy is the key to building the future. It is this quality that allows you to tailor customer experiences that matter. Simply, by putting yourself in the shoes of your end user shall you only be able to truly innovate. There is no other way.


How Do You Thrive In Today’s Customers-First World?

While many may take a page from Henry Ford and Steve Jobs by saying that customers don’t know what they want until you show them – these innovators still crafted something new from an existing idea, assessed the basic market needs and accessed diverse skills to creatively solve a problem. It’s tempting to put a dent in the universe and change history with your one great idea. In reality, it takes more than just a foresight to do it right.


1. Build a Customer-Centric Culture in Your Organization

When you get everyone in the company involved in your quest to deliver awesome service, you give them an opportunity to understand better how your customers think and what issues they are struggling with. This helps you connect the dots faster and come up with solutions that are more likely to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. Again, the not-so-secret formula here is: Active Listening + Empathy. Demonstrate what a great customer service is by starting to take extremely good care of your employees so they can emulate to your bottom line.

Here are the Top 5 Books Every Customer-Centric Startup Must Read:

What’s Inside: The visionary CEO of Zappos explains how an emphasis on corporate culture can lead to unprecedented success. Make customer service the entire company, not just a department. Focus on company culture as the #1 priority…

What’s Inside: Great customer service is a concept organizations love to be known for. Yet most people consider the service they receive to be average, at best. Successful companies make the connection between legendary customer service and a thriving business–they recognize that the way employees treat customers is directly related to the way managers treat employees.

What’s Inside: Nationally syndicated columnist and sales trainer, Jeffrey Gitomer shows you how to convert satisfied customers into loyal customers.

What’s Inside: In Uncommon Service, Frances Frei and Anne Morriss show how, in a volatile economy where the old rules of strategic advantage no longer hold true, service must become a competitive weapon, not a damage-control function. That means weaving service tightly into every core decision your company makes.

What’s Inside: The Effortless Experience takes readers on a fascinating journey deep inside the customer experience to reveal what really makes customers loyal—and disloyal. The authors lay out the four key pillars of a low-effort customer experience, along the way delivering robust data, shocking insights and profiles of companies that are already using the principles revealed by CEB’s research, with great results.


2. Explore Unchartered Waters and Take Risks

You probably have heard of Casual Reasoning where one starts with a pre-determined goal in mind and find optimal ways on how to achieve it. This time, go for Effectual Reasoning.  In a nutshell, it is the polar opposite where you don’t assume a specific target.  Instead, you work with what you currently have at your disposal and allow goals to emerge as you interact with people. It’s like manning a pirate’s ship where you let the tides bring you to your next destination with your ideas.  It’s also smarter to test every assumption you have on a new product so you can polish it further vs going the MVP (minimum viable product) route.  

Care to disagree?  Share your thoughts in the comments; I’m all eyes.


3. Customer Service vs Customer Experience

Know that in the language of your customers, there’s a big difference among needs vs wants vs expectations. For example, someone walks into a store and says, ‘God, I’m thirsty! I’m gonna get a bottle of water.’ There is a need for an actual problem which is thirst. But, when that same person says, ‘I’m gonna get a bottle of Evian’ – then that becomes a want, a preference for whatever rational or irrational reason. And maybe, that person feels that a bottle of Evian will solve the actual issue and this is an expectation.

Now, what’s with all these fuss, you might ask. All of these factors are key motivations that drive your customer to buy. This is the very reason why you have to go beyond customer service in solving market problems with successful innovations. You must delve into a customer’s experience since everyone has a different perception of your product’s benefit.

By understanding and putting your customers at the center of everything that you do, and ensuring that each touchpoint gives them a relevant and flawless experience – you fulfill their wants, needs and expectations all at once. When a customer comes to you, they may want to check out a new product, want to buy something, complain about issues – you must be ready to address all these without extra effort from their end. This way, you get to involve your customers in the feedback process faster and gain valuable insights for your next big idea.

Come to think of it, it’s a continuous cycle. Gartner predicts that by 2020, a customer will manage 85% of the relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human. All the more that you need to ensure that you deliver an excellent customer experience.

Here are important predictions gathered by Adobe from 75+ marketers:

I’d like to end this post with an invitation to share insights about customer service with brilliant minds on the #CUSTSERV Twitter chat (hosted by @MarshaCollier) – happening (since 2009) every Tuesdays from 9-10 pm ET.  You can read transcripts of the previous chats compiled by @ImMarkBernhardt  HERE

Just a snippet of a convo with a keynote speaker and author, @CTrappe


P.S.  Need a Smarter Strategy for Your Business? Let’s Talk!