The world’s top thought leaders share a kindred conviction for businesses to innovate from the “outside in”. They evidence how the customer experience has become the number one priority for business success and survival. It is also your number one opportunity for innovation. By engaging with your customers you can redefine your products, services and processes to make absolutely certain they remain loyal to your brand with a strong desire to buy more from you.
HANG OUT WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS: VALUE IS DEFINED BY THE RECEIVER OF HR WORK
Dr Dave Ulrich, largely regarded as the world’s leading thought leader in the HR space has redesigned the HR profession ensuring they turn external stakeholder expectations into organisation actions. At a recent conference in South Africa he asked the audience, largely made up of managers and executives from the HR profession, “How many of you have spent time in the past year with your customers?” As was anticipated, there was a negligible response in the affirmative. He says, ‘HR must improve the lives of customers. Since value is defined by the receiver, not the giver, the HR value proposition begins with the customers who are the receivers of HR work. This is why”, he argues, “the HR profession should be hanging out with their customers.”
BECOME INTIMATE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS: CUSTOMER INTIMACY SAVES THE DAY AT STORE 24
By further example, In The Execution Premium, Dr Dave Norton and Professor Robert Kaplan evidence the importance of a customer-centric approach to innovation. The book cites a case study of how a large retailer, Store 24, turned around their failed strategy by applying what their CEO Bob Gordon, called their Customer Intimacy programme.
The Store 24 strategy which was called “Ban Boredom” seemed like a great idea and sure fire way to differentiate them from their competitors. The original “Ban Boredom” plan was an exciting and innovative strategy providing an entertaining atmosphere with fun promotions and frequent themes. This gave store managers permission and discretion to find ways to execute on the strategy. They dressed up in costumes consistent with themes and holidays and activated imaginative promotions with great displays. Unfortunately this “playful and entertaining” innovation strategy had an adverse effect. It seemed that while executed with good intentions, the result was failing on the customer intimacy metric.
It was most fortunate that this strategy was predicated on their “customer intimacy” programme and by getting “up close and personal” with their customers they were able to quickly abandon the “Ban Boredom” Programme after two years and replace it with a new strategy. What their “customer intimacy” programme showed was that the customers valued their traditional strengths of good product selection, quick service and a clean environment and they did not value, AT ALL, the experience they were trying to create. They were unhappy with the inattentive store employees dressed in costumes and distracted by the ever-changing displays in store.
Their comeback strategy, called “Cause, you just can’t wait” was wholly based on customer feedback.
SLEEP WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS AND TAP INTO THEIR VERY DNA: DOUBLE DIGIT GROWTH AT JENNY CRAIG WITH TURNOVER IN THE EXCESS OF 400 MILLION US$
Martin Lindstrom, brand turnaround consultant and self-confessed obsessive fan of the consumer, suggests you “sleep with your customers”. He says “you must create a direct pipeline to your customer’s soul.” In serving some of the world’s leading brands he “sleeps with their customers”. He tells of the success of just 2 days spent in the home of a Jenny Craig customer. In conversation with this particular customer he noticed a bracelet she wore. He asked her about this bracelet and quickly confirmed that this was of immense emotional and symbolic value to her. This visit and conversation culminated in the design and implementation of a charm bracelet which would symbolise each customer’s commitment and achievement on the Jenny Craig Weight loss Programme. Jenny Craig attributes this customer centric innovation for their double digit growth and annual turnover is excess of $ 400 million US.
I asked Martin Lindstrom for his 3 most important customer centric pieces of advice. This is what he said.
- Spend time in your customer’s homes.
- Spend time in your customer’s homes.
- Spend time in your customer’s homes, period.
GREAT WAYS TO GET YOUR CUSTOMERS IN ON YOUR INNOVATION PROGRAMME
According to The Forrester Wave™ Innovation Management Tools review, they showed that a great way to ensure innovation success was by designing a technology platform that most importantly authorises your customers to participate on the front end of your idea management technology solution. At Innolive 2015, Richard Copland will discuss how you ensure customer collaboration and essential engagement from customer facing employees; the ones that are hanging out and “sleeping with” your customers. The Forrester report showed that customer facing employees, call centre agents or field technicians are in a prime position to propose new products and new ways to deliver a customer experience desired by the receiver.
Mobil in the USA realised the benefits of this approach, when they decided to give their truck drivers a high level of accountability and recognition for their contribution to recommend new products, services and customer execution innovations.
In conclusion, whilst we do not suggest you actually “sleep with your customers”, we ask that you obsessively measure the level of customer engagement in your innovation process and strongly urge you to take Martin Lindstrom’s advice – ‘Spend time in your customer’s homes.’
KEEP IT REAL!
On an aside, Martin is obsessed by customer engagement with authenticity. Many years ago, PepsiCo established an online innovation lab, asking Pepsi fans to sign up and develop new flavours and ideas. Martin was quick to sign up and share his ideas. He got an instant (automated) response. “Thank you for your ideas. We will get back to you.” Six years later he is still waiting.
INNOVATION LIVE 2015
On the 19th and 20th February 2015, 7 International Experts and 4 of SA’s leaders in implementing innovation, will present case studies to demonstrate the most successful capabilities and the success factors required to achieve innovation capability that delivers tangible ROI in an agile way.
Post Courtesy of Innocentrix
For more information about Innovation Live 2015 – The definitive innovation event for decision makers in South Africa go to innolive.co.za