Tech Deserves Your Intention—Innovation Requires Focus on Customer Expectations

Jessica Carender, Partner Engagement Manager, The NIIC

At the June Third Thursday Connections, Jason Pennington shared why tech deserves not only our attention but also our intention. “Today we have smartphones, smart houses, smart parking, smart everything. Customers haven’t changed, but their expectations have changed — and changed in a big way,” said Jason Pennington, Executive Director, Indiana IoT Lab. “In a time when our society is racing toward creating several hundred exabytes of data per day, we have to look beyond the latest technology and focus on the underlying human wants, needs, and challenges that technology can address,” Pennington said.

An expert in the Internet of Things (IoT), Pennington made his remarks at a live webinar presented by the Connected Health Lab of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (The NIIC).  The NIIC’s Connected Health Lab collaborates with strategic partners across the state to foster innovation in the healthcare sector that significantly impacts the Indiana economy.

“We must begin with the end in mind,” Pennington said. “When we give our attention to technology, we must be intentional. We should talk about customer-centric technology and creating customer value.”

Pennington emphasized his point with an illustration from Donald Miller’s StoryBrand book.

“What’s the most commonly asked question at Disneyland?” Pennington asked. “The most commonly asked question is, ‘What time is the 4:00 parade?’ That’s a silly question. But Disney teaches its employees to look beyond the superficial question and discern what the visitor is really asking. In this case, the customer is probably asking, ‘What time does the parade pass this area? Will I be able to see it from here? What’s the best way for my kids to experience the parade?’ Disney teaches its employees to address the underlying questions, wants and needs of their visitors.” Pennington commended Disney for how it creates a memorable, meaningful customer experience and cites it as an example of commitment to delivering customer value.

“Think about all the information, all the knowledge, all the awareness that we have today about brands and products. What separates one from another? It’s not really customer-service level information. Rather, it’s about our complete experience with the product, with the platform, with the service. We’re moving beyond being wowed by technology. We want a connected experience —a valuable experience that makes a brand or product unique.”

“Today we have smart cameras, smart thermostats, smart speakers. And we even have the smart igniter. I didn’t know I needed that until I saw the YouTube commercial of Thanksgiving dinner being ruined because I couldn’t start my oven from my phone.”

“What they are really asking is, ‘Can this product make me feel uniquely connected? Can I customize my home and my life with my app or my automated light system?’”

The desire to feel connected applies outside the home, as well. In Indiana, that means purposeful, intentional uses of technology at the workplace, job site, or farm.

“There’s a seed company about 45 minutes north of our lab. Look in their portal and you’ll see something fascinating. Customers are opting in and sharing information about the specific hybrid seed they use, how many acres they’ve planted, their average yield, and more.  Everybody is sharing their data. The seed company has almost gamified the idea of ‘improving together.’ So farming is changing. Farming is no longer exclusively based on the history and experience of just one farm, but also leveraging this data — the history and experience of others. That sharing, that connectedness, has real value to these farmers.”

“That’s the value of technology with intention. It’s taking a 1,000-acre problem and breaking it down into 1,000 little one-acre puzzles. When the seed company can track the unique history of previous years’ emergence or crop rates, use that data to prescribe a new planting methodology for those fields, and then actually back this recommendation with a warranty — that’s real value to the customer.”

“At the end of the day, it’s not about tech or AI or any of these buzzwords. It’s about delivering intentional value by aligning the right tech to a specific problem for the consumer. When we understand that in today’s world, we can create an explosion of opportunity.”


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