Customer-Driven Innovation

In our innovation open letter to stakeholders, our Innovation Lead, Sekayi Fundafunda asked a thought-provoking question: How do you build what’s next?

“There certainly isn’t one magic answer to ‘how you build what is next’, but I like to think there are some definite starting points, that we have explored and encountered in developing innovation as a service to our partners,” she explains.

In her letter, she points out three components that have to come together for you to create high-impact and high-value products for your customers and shareholders.

The people (customer), product and the process are key fundamentals in corporate innovation. 

We will explore each of the three components independently but in this particular article, we will focus on customer-driven innovation. 

Why customer innovation?

Customers are the heart of your business. The first reason that you exist is that you want to provide a solution for customers that they will buy into, and as you provide the solutions, you want to create more customers and retain them. Now, do you ensure that you are building solutions that meet customer needs?

A book by Gibbert et al (Five Styles of Consumer Knowledge Management and How Smart Companies Use Them To Create Value) helps us to answer this question. “Nowadays, organizations change their strategy from innovating for customers and innovating with customers to innovating by customers.

A thesis by Katsiaryna Archakova Olga Mazur from Gotland University explains that the concept of customer-driven innovations means that customers are involved in the innovation process and their ideas, suggestions and even complaints are considered as a driving force for innovations. The main feature is that a customer is a provider of the innovation or idea, regardless of the initiator of the cooperation between customer and company. 

ResearchGate explains that customer innovation program is based on systematic interactions among the organization, products and

services, and customers, as illustrated in the diagram below.

Let us now get into some of the things that ensure that your customer-centred innovation strategy is serving its rightful purpose.

Communicate with customers

Effective communication with customers at every stage of the customer journey is important to the long-term success of your business. 

At the awareness stage where a customer is becoming familiar with your brand, communicate with them to gain clarity on what the customer truly needs.

Once a customer understands what you are offering to them and they are considering making a purchase, keep communicating with them to guide them through their purchasing decision up until they make a purchase. 

At the retention stage when the customer has used the product, communicate to get feedback which is useful in implementing changes and adapting to customer’s fast-changing needs. 

Staying in touch with customers at the advocacy stage reinforces sales. Even if they don’t need your services at that particular point, they become advocates for your brand. Communicating at this stage also reminds them that you are there for them whenever they need you.

We have dwelt on you communicating with your customers but what about customers communicating with you?

For effectiveness, provide omnichannel communication support. You should make it possible for customers to reach you on several channels that are convenient for them.

As you expand your omnichannel support, ensure that there is unified communication on all the platforms to offer the best customer experience regardless of the touchpoints used by the customers. 

A simple rule of thumb- Go where your customers are, don’t make them come to you.

Turn negative feedback into a competitive advantage

Customer reviews are an integral part of your customer innovation strategy. What customers have to say about your business makes you who you are. Positive reviews encourage you to do even better while negative reviews allow you to improve.

Customer innovation requires openness on how you deal with complaints. When customers complain about a particular product or service, go an extra mile to investigate the magnitude of customers affected so that as you give a solution, you are catering to several other customers who had the same complaint but did not voice out. Explore what opportunities can be derived from the complaint and turn that into your competitive advantage. 

Negative feedback can also manifest in customers unsubscribing from your email list. Always get feedback if a customer is no longer interested in your business. Identify the most common trends and use them to improve your offerings.

Effective customer support

Customer experience is crucial for any business. Effective customer support should be part of your customer-centric strategy if you want to maintain a pool of customers who are loyal to your brand. When a customer presents a query, they want it sorted out quickly and promptly. You can maximise customer service excellence by doing the following:

  • Respond to customer queries instantly with live chat
  • Provide self-service options to customers
  • Enhance your social media presence
  • Balance automation and human support to offer hybrid support
  • Deliver a great mobile and web experience

Read more: Technology-driven customer support.

Customer insights through mystery shopping

A mystery shopper is someone who has been paid to shop in stores and collect data. Mystery shopping is common in retail stores but it can also be done in a corporate entity. For example, you can conduct mystery shopping yourself by calling your customer care number and listening to how your agents respond to customers and how their various issues are handled. If your organisation has branches distributed around a city or country, walk into one of them to have an inside look of how your customers are treated.

Placing yourself as a customer also gives you a clear picture of the entire customer experience. Were you happy with the overall experience as a customer? You would only know the answer once you try.

We would like to help you foster a culture of innovation and help you build a unique solution that will enhance your ability to understand your customers.

Read here on how we supported a financial institution with branches across the country seeking ways to manage an increasing number of customers within the quickest possible time.

Are you ready to build what’s next? Speak to us!