Where does innovation begin?
When you consider how world-changing products have been developed, it’s natural to think that a visionary leader like Steve Jobs is the most important ingredient in driving innovation. However, many innovations have been generated without a single creative genius as their architect. Sometimes it’s the research of many people over many years that enables new innovations to be produced and flourished. Sometimes it’s the presence of a company that values its employees and their ideas.
But more and more nowadays, the customer is at the forefront of innovation. Leading companies are discovering that by focusing on and predicting their customers’ needs, they remain dynamic and create products at the cutting edge of their fields.
In this article, we’ll consider four ways to use your customer base to help maintain a spirit of innovation in your business.
1) Pay constant attention to your customers and their needs
The first point is the most obvious but also the most necessary: know what the customer wants. This doesn’t simply mean that you should keep producing the same product, or delivering the same service, that you always have as long as customers keep purchasing them. It means looking at your company from the customer’s perspective to see where those products and services might improve. It means that in addition to offering customer feedback, it’s crucial to engage with that feedback in a substantive way. Trust the opinions of your customers; they will let you know where the marketplace is headed.
2) Establish leadership that values customers and innovate with customers in mind
The next step follows naturally from the previous one. Attention to the customer begins at the top. It’s thus essential to have leaders in place who understand that the company will only progress by keeping the customer at the forefront. This kind of leadership will ensure that new ideas that enhance customer service and experience will be supported and borne to fruition. It will also set an example for everyone else in the company that success comes from listening to customers’ needs and developing products with them in mind.
3) Organize and unify your company around a basic customer-centered vision
It’s not enough to have leaders who establish a workplace culture of valuing customers and trusting their role in innovation. This emphasis needs to be company-wide. Your company’s attention to the customer should be written into its vision statement. More than this, all employees should have a clear sense of what it means, practically speaking, to put the customer first, from treating them with respect during telephone conversations to making an extra effort to help solve whatever problems they might have.
4) Keep quality customer service at the heart of your mandate, from marketing to sales to customer support
A truly satisfied customer gives your company the room it needs to dare to innovate, to try new things. Only when you’re certain that your business is looking after its customers in all other aspects of its day-to-day operations can you be confident that you’ve created the margins to try something new. This means that customer service and support need to be central to your identity as a business. For example, as a SaaS (software as a service) company, consider integrating online guidance.
There are many other ways to encourage innovation through a focus on the customer. But they all emanate from the above basic principles. Once these principles have been established in your company and its vision, you will be well on your way to combining satisfied and happy customers with leading innovation that transforms the marketplace.
About Curtis Bingham
The first to promote the role of chief customer officer (CCO) as catalyst for competitive advantage, Curtis is recognized as the world’s foremost authority on CCOs. He is founder and Executive Director of the Chief Customer Officer Council™, the first peer-led advisory group for CCOs, President of Predictive Consulting Group, Inc. and creator of the CCO Roadmap and the Customer Centricity Maturity Model: groundbreaking, proprietary works that assist companies achieve customer centric culture and revenue growth. Curtis is passionate about creating powerful customer strategies and trusted for his business acumen, actionable insights, and commitment to measurable business results.