There are two sides to a coin, in this case the coin being customer experience design.

As an experience designer, half of my time is spent helping customers come up with ideas for better experiences. To my mind, the best experiences delight customers, engage employees, and benefit shareholders—all at the same time.

The other half of the client-facing time is usually focused on helping the company change so it can deliver the better experience.

Both areas are ripe for change through innovation.

Use Innovation To Be Best At What Your Customers Want Most

Many look at innovation as a way to improve on what is already being done by making it better or faster. My experience has been that what customers truly want more of and what companies focus their innovation time and attention on are quite different. The result of that disconnect is often lost time, frustration, high opportunity cost, and slipping market share.

There’s a better way.

The most predictably successful starting point for the kind of customer experience innovation that truly benefits all the stakeholders isn’t focused on what is currently the case, but on the ‘what could be’ that people would value greatly. After all, the businesses that deliver greater value and a better customer experience are the ones customers usually choose—and share stories about!

Think about focusing your innovation attention on “what customers want most”. This is the first side of the coin. You may have to experiment with some new methods to find out those truths but this is an important step and well worth the effort.

First address the core needs that inform the type of innovation work that needs to be done.

Use these five points to get started.

  • Search for what your customers’ unmet needs are and work toward providing more value in those areas.
  • Find ways to adjust the way your business process works. Don’t let your internal processes dictate the experiences your customers get.
  • Talk with your employees to find out what makes their work lives harder. Focus on alleviating pressure, saving time and improving information flow so that employees can make decisions and have more time to serve customers directly. Front-line empowerment usually translates to improvements on the bottom line.
  • Steer your innovation teams to find ways to create more value for customers, employees and shareholders at the same time. They may have to combine different ideas and/or adjust the ones they are already working on. Thinking innovations through from these three perspectives usually makes them stronger, easier to adopt, and more valuable.
  • Separate the design of the innovation from its design for adoption. Coming up with a cool idea and getting traction for it often require different ways of thinking, different people, and different organizational understanding. Don’t be afraid to mix up the teams a bit.

Consider The Other Side Of The Coin

Once you discover what your customers authentically want most, the work of helping the company become good at delivering that outcome begins.

Consider pointing some of your team’s innovation horsepower on what makes the new experience possible. Use innovation and service design techniques to also improve the processes, technology, rules, communications, and behaviors that support the experiences you want to introduce.

For example…
When Apple introduced the iPod, what was the biggest innovation? Most people say the sleek design, the cool form factor, the spinning, clicking thing used to search through long lists easily.

In my opinion, it was a back office move that was even harder to make—convincing the music industry to let an outside third party chop up their ‘albums’ into individual songs and price them at a 99-cent commodity level. That one twist was worth as much as all the tech and design. It was hard, but Apple (and the music industry) did the work and look at the result: more value for everyone.

Innovation And The Customer Experience-Final_html_993c4ce
Think of the innovations themselves as the ideas that go into your innovation funnel.

The neck of the funnel determines how many of the innovations you can successfully adopt. A blend of putting more ideas into the top of the funnel and increasing the width of the funnel itself equates to getting better CX innovations to market. The neck of your funnel will hopefully expand over time allowing greater agility in responding to changing customer desires and your companies’ ability to deliver great customer experiences.

Your innovation attention can be used to address both sides of the coin, determining what your customer’s value greatly and smoothing internal processes in order to deliver great customer experiences. Better customer experience innovations coming to fruition leads to alignment within the company and delivery of better experiences for your customers. Those experiences become the stories that your customers will repeat. Better customer experiences, engaged employees and the shareholders benefit as well…this is value for all stakeholders.

Author bio:
Mike Wittenstein

Mike’s passion for moving businesses from middle of the pack to the top is supported by a lifetime of experience.

His experience spans two decades, more than 25 countries and over 300 companies. Mike was an IBM eVisionary, creating their first Customer Experience Practice.

Working with companies like IBM, founding his own company and consulting with organizations of all sizes around the world, he is a leading architect for design that bridges the gap between data gathering and experience building.

Mike is the founder of Storyminers®, the delivery arm for great customer experience design. Most companies simply do not know how to design, architect or facilitate big change. Mike Wittenstein has spent years mastering his craft in customer experience design and guiding companies through big change.

In the earliest years of Mike’s career, he was given some good advice, “Take notice of what’s going on around you and catalog those experiences. They will be useful later.” As it turns out, observation and application are second nature to Mike. He sees how the physical environment impacts the customer experience and the emotional environment — how damaging it can be to your brand to overstate your promise.

Where most companies take a “balance sheet” approach to problem solving, it is the human element that ultimately moves the needle. Mike demonstrates this with Fortune 500 companies as well as hundreds of small to mid-sized businesses, including many non-profits.

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