Friday, December 10
Customer Experience as a Product
As you might expect, I spend much of my time working with customer-facing industries rather than product designers and manufacturers. As such I'm often inspired to consider how I might lift the best lessons from product innovators and apply them to creative thinking and innovation in service industries.
Many of you will face this same challenge, and I encourage your comments: When first we scour the internet for advice on creativity or innovation we find the richest material in the domain of the product developer.
So what's the "product" of a Business-to-Customer (B2C) or Government-to-Citizen (G2C) organisation? I believe it's the customer experience.
If we accept that assertion, then our job is to supplement our current list of techniques for improving customer experience with additional insight from the product industry. Here's my attempt to translate a few popular rules:
"Use Technology-Pull innovation, as well as Market-Push innovation"
... could be elaborated into: "Explore and experiment with the potential for emerging technology to positively affect the customer's perception of service, including impacts on sensory perception, environment, perceived value, ease, accessibility and reliability of transactions, and supplementary value-added services."
"Make time available for staff to work on their own projects"
... might usefullly become: "Pay customer-facing staff for reflecting on the service they provide, give them time to compare notes and consult customers informally, and then propose improvements. Listen to their feedback, and act on it."
"Launch early, then continuously improve"
... could translate into: "Set aside significant budget to run a continuously evolving portfolio of concept stores, offices, websites and other centres of service. Pay close attention to the reactions and behaviours of customers exposed to those experiments. Roll-out each concept more widely as soon as the balance of risk swings positive, and expect further development to be necessary in the field."
"There are no bad ideas"
... applies pretty well without translation, but we might add "Review all new ideas for customer service with an open mind, and with a facilitator-led customer focus group. Actively seek to transform 'bad' ideas into 'good' ones."
Aside from this list, so much other advice remains intact: It's still entirely appropriate to apply lateral thinking, to share information as widely as possible, to challenge our subconscious assumptions, etc.
All that's happening here is a shift from the focus we're used to reading about: Service industries should concentrate on the core "product" of customer experience, relying on the supply chain to drive innovation in underlying goods and services.
Now we know what belongs in that empty cardboard box.