12.28.16

Do’s of Customer Experience Innovation

By: Karl R. LaPan, President and CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

Each and every individual (and by association, the choices you make in the service providers, contractors, vendors, and partners you hire) in an organization is a necessary part of creating exceptional innovations in customer experience. That’s because it’s a safe bet that the bar will be raised with higher customer expectations and more distinctive offerings and experiences in the marketplace. Your culture, processes, policies, skills and motivations have a lot to do with retaining, gaining—and losing customers.

One prime example of customer experience innovation at work is that of Procter & Gamble. Chances are you have a product in your home made by the manufacturer giant—and their success is no accident. Though they are large, the culture is not lost across their divisions and workforce. Innovation is a part of the company’s DNA. This is true at great companies like Disney, Ritz-Carlton, Zappos, Enterprise Rental Car, Starbucks, and Sweetwater Sound (locally), who leverage customer experience innovation. So, how do you curate great customer experiences?

Here are 5 practcal tips:

  1. Find out what outcomes customers expect. Forget the bells and whistles. Those are just means-to-an-end. Remember that the outcome, or end experience, is what the customer really buys. Customers have a brand expectation of the experience they expect when doing business with you. How are you reaffirming or delivering on your brand expectation?
  2. Monitor your motives. Are you in business to solve a need (pain or problem) or to improve the quality of life? Or is it purely a matter of financial gain? Companies that are driven by profit alone tend to turn off customers. Disney’s Chain of Excellence postulates that taking care of the cast member who provides a culture of care to the guest results in guest satisfaction, repeat business and better business and financial outcomes. Profit is the result of this process, not the goal.
  3. Borrow ideas from others. Put in the time to examine how other industries and cultures do things. Learn from them, adapt, experiment, iterate and keep what works. Inno-visits or benchmarking others is key to inspiring new thinking. Remember, the best ideas are often borrowed from other industries outside of your main business area.
  4. Embrace customer learning. When a customer takes the time to share suggestions or vent frustrations, you can bet they represent a cross section of your current (or former) customer base. Better for you to hear it and make the change as soon as possible before your competitors take advantage of the opportunity and leave you in the dust. Remember, the old adage is the customer is not always right but deserves to be heard. Appropriate and prompt service recovery is key to lifetime loyalty and customer commitment. How your organization learns and acts in moments of truth make all the difference.
  5. Audit your company culture. Take stock of company policies, processes, skills, motivations, products and services — regularly, at least. Approach them from the customer’s viewpoint. Always be willing and ready to invent great customer experiences. Customer experience innovation is a discipline. You have to work to create rhythm and magic to keep the experience fresh and novel. Building culture and celebrating successes along the way are key to gaining commitment and buy-in.

Think about the last 30 days, how many memorable or remarkable service experiences have you personally had? If you had any, what made them remarkable?

As we enter 2017, which one of these “do’s” are you willing to focus on implementing to raise the bar for your organization? At the NIIC, we are focusing on anticipating our customer and guest needs before they express them (Ritz-Carlton calls it Radar On, Antenna Up).

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