Value creation makes the world go ’round. It stimulates revenue, engagement, and productivity. Value is the secret to customer experience excellence, and that’s why value is secret to sustainable growth. But beware: sometimes value is created selfishly, for the benefit of one party at the expense of the other. This is counterproductive to customer experience and to growth. Mutual value benefits both parties when upside for customers and the company outweighs downside for either party.
What is Customer Experience Innovation?
The first question to get clear on: Who is your customer? Make a note of anyone who has a role in the decision or action to obtain what you offer, as well as anyone who uses what is obtained. Opportunities to create value can be stimulated by thinking of your customers more holistically. Help everyone help you.
The second question to get clear on: What is customer experience? All interactions people have with or about a solution: messages, people, processes, policies, price, products, and services. Collectively, these things are intertwined in a customer’s experience with a solution.
The third question: What do customers buy? Capabilities, pure and simple. Whatever someone buys is a capability to relax, be entertained, remember, grow, live, avoid pain, and so forth. The capability to do something via your solution is also known as the customer’s “job-to-be-done“.
Almost always, your solution is consumed in concert with other products, services, people, technologies, and/or processes. This integration provides essential clues to customers’ expectations. It provides context that’s necessary to create optimal mutual value. Car manufacturers, for example, are going beyond the car basics, to create new value by: making it easy to add accessories for biking or off-roading, making it easy to open the trunk without using hands, entertaining people sitting in the back seat, making it safe to access GPS or cell phones while driving, making it easy to trade-in and finance a car, simplifying maintenance, and so forth. To get crystal-clear on what customers value, focus on what your solution is integrated with to serve the customer’s job-to-be-done.
Customer experience innovation creates mutual value for anyone in the holistic definition of “customer”, regarding any aspect of their experience with a solution, with a focus on the customer’s jobs-to-be-done.
Customer Experience Innovation Insights
Some engineers and managers have become frustrated after asking customers about hypothetical products and features, and their likelihood to buy them. Often, this research is doomed from the beginning, because the wrong questions are being asked. As a solution provider, you may be the expert in what’s possible: do not require your customer to do your job. Ask customers about their world — not yours.
Your customer is expert in knowing what they’re trying to get done. This can be asked in terms such as: “In a perfect world, what would you be able to do about X?” Or “In your wildest dreams, what would you be able to do about X?” Or better yet, let customers communicate to you through non-verbal means: pictures, metaphors, diagrams. Let them borrow scenarios from other parts of their life that convey what they’re trying to get done regarding your solution topic. Your aim is to see their world clearly: what capability are they seeking, and what is this capability integrated with?
When you ask the right questions, the thinking of your employees, suppliers, and alliance partners can be stimulated to suggest new ways of helping customers help you — creating mutual value. Adobe and Intuit are two companies that encourage everyone, regardless of job title, to suggest innovation ideas. Using agile techniques, ideas are rapidly tested with customers in an iterative process, streamlining investment for all involved, and maximizing the chances of “getting it right” from the beginning.
If you want to top your industry in customer experience differentiation and business results, you’ve got to create mutual value on an ongoing basis. Customer experience innovation can become a way of life — part of your company culture. It’s a reciprocal cycle of “help me help you” between a company and customers. Get crystal clear on who your customers are, what customer experience is — from their perspective, and focus your executives, employees, suppliers, and alliances on creative ways to help your customers achieve the capabilities they’re pursuing. This is the mutual value that fosters growth and keeps the world going ’round.