Whether you sell pensions, escalators, coffee or software we should probably all be in the same business – the customer experience innovation business.

It’s the only way we’ll stay in business.

Cheapest isn’t a strategy because someone else can and will be cheaper.

Adding more bells isn’t a strategy. A competitor can always add more bells and even the odd whistle.

Making it faster isn’t a strategy because someone will always make theirs faster.

Proving your product outperforms the competitor by 5% isn’t a strategy because your competitors are always working just as hard making their performance better.

So if you are going to innovate, think about starting with your customer experience.

Businesses that define themselves around the customer experience can charge more and have more loyal customers and staff because people love their product. It’s the Starbucks advantage. They have built a wildly successful business on delivering excellent coffee around an excellent customer experience. When was the last time you walked past a Starbucks because the coffee shop down the road sells cheaper coffee?

It’s the Waitrose advantage – the one UK Grocery business that seems to have been largely immune to disruption from the low-cost chains. They stand for something other than cost, and people like it.

It’s the secret to Sir Richard Branson’s success – whether it’s trains, planes or mobile phones, he’s passionate about customer experience and it purveys through all of his businesses and ingrained into his employees.

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So how do you innovate the Customer Experience? You can download a datasheet, or read on for the main things you should consider.

Vision. What do you want to tell the World about your business? Who do you want to be? What personality do you want to project?

With unlimited options in the marketplace these days for practically anything, consumers gravitate towards brands that demonstrate genuine, uncompromising enthusiasm for the “thing” they do or product they offer. If you want to be what Starbucks is to coffee shops in your sector, you need to figure out how translate the passion for what you do into a customer experience.

Wear your customer’s shoes and map out what they experience. Are you delivering a RyanAir experience (cheap, but awful) or Jet2 (cheap, but award winning CX). One of the other provocations for ideas that I always promote is, “what kind of customer experience do we need to deliver to get people talking about us at a dinner party”? Create these scenarios and test them against what actually happens.

Find new value from previously un-met needs. Have you heard of a taxi firm called Uber? They are worth $40billion – more than most car manufacturers which is ironic because they don’t own a single taxi. They looked at the taxi business from the perspective of the needs of the customer rather than the business model of the taxi firms – a business model pretty much as old the automobile. It’s highly disruptive to the existing players, but as consumers we love it.

Find the ideas at the edges. ‘Standard’ – doing what all you competitors do has become the riskiest strategy. Ask everyone; your staff, your customers (your ex-customers), your partners “what would be extra-ordinary”. Don’t filter at this stage. Even if most people come back with versions of “free”, don’t discount them. Ideas trigger ideas which trigger ideas so don’t discard anything.

You won’t find novel, exceptional ideas by ‘ideating’ (the verb for having ideas) in the ways you’ve always come up with ideas, you’ll find them by ideating in novel and exceptional ways; walk in your customers shoes, take your innovation team somewhere where they do ‘exceptional’ to inspire and disrupt their thinking. Challenge everything. “We’ve always done it this way” is the wrong answer (or the right answer if you are actively looking for disruptive ideas).

Prototype.  This might be about building something – mocking something up and watching how people react and use it, but equally it might be about simply testing the idea – buying ads on Facebook and watching how people respond to them. This is the hardest step for most organisations that are unused to the concept of testing and prototyping. This step is about keeping your options open. If it triggers a six month development cycle (especially if your development team has a track record of over promising and under delivering) you’ve got the wrong prototype. Think again.

Implement. You haven’t innovated until you have implemented something, but don’t stop there, watch how people respond to it and continue to innovate and push the boundaries.


Mike Michael Allen TalkFreelyI have a bunch more information and experience to pass on such as; processes and guidelines, or if you simply want to pick my brain, get in contact with me by emialing me, mike@everythingbrilliant.co.uk

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