As sales and profits continue to
evaporate across corporate America, employees in every business must find
ways to attract and retain customers. Innovation plays an even more critical
role than ever before. Innovation is the process of identifying, combining,
evaluating and implementing opportunities to add more value to customers.
A Golden Medium For Innovation: The
Every customer interaction provides extraordinary opportunities for
innovation. Here are five steps for adding value to customers and increasing
Dissect The Customer Experience
Every customer goes through a cycle of inquiring, evaluating, purchasing,
experiencing and, usually, requesting additional information. Sometimes that
cycle lasts a few minutes and sometimes several years. Every stage in the
process provides a myriad of opportunities for improvement. Innovative
customer service searches for ways to add value at each stage.
Ask Key Questions At Each Stage
Innovation always begins with a question. The answers to key questions
create the foundation for innovative products and services. Here are a
couple key questions:
- At this stage in the sales cycle,
what is the most important outcome for the customer?
- At this stage, what can we do to
improve this outcome?
Just by asking those two questions, you
have identified opportunities for innovation.
Identify Key Customer Issues At Every
Of course, knowing the outcome and getting there are two separate entities.
Once you know the most important outcome at each stage, then clarify the
issues that keep customers from achieving what they want. Identify if the
issue is related to speed, access, clarity of information, friendliness,
cleanliness, knowledge of front-line employee, quality of product and so on.
For each stage, look at what currently happens, examine the key issues and
the desired customer outcomes, and then ask yourself, "If we started
from scratch, what could we do to deliver what the customer wants?"
Sometimes out of habit organizations complicate matters for customers simply
because they have always done things a certain way. Don't just try to make
minor adjustments to your traditional methods. Examine the desired outcome
and ask yourself how else you could get there.
Innovate In Detail
No detail is too small if it matters to the customer. Sometimes we think
innovation means something big, technological and expensive. Nothing could
be farther from the truth. Keep searching for little ways to add more value
to customers and increase their chances of achieving what they want. Take
each stage in their experience and keep breaking it down into minute detail.
Examine each detail as an investigator examines a crime. Constantly ask
yourself, "How does this affect the customer and what could we do to
make it better?"
Send questions to Dan Coughlin at The
Coughlin Company, Inc., a firm specializing in enhancing the effectiveness
of top performing executives, groups and organizations.