Innovation Through the Customer’s Eyes

What do potential clients want from you? How do they want to receive it, and how do you get them to keep coming back for more?

Take a second and list the top 2 or 3 key elements that make your product or service valuable to clients. Don’t list what you think is important or what you are most proud of. Only look at what your clients think are the important traits.

Is it your quality, your speed, your service, your employees etc.?

Now the next logical questions are, how can you make sure this is what they want, and how can you be sure we are giving it to them?

Many organizations are stuck in the rut of the “that’s how we have always done it” mentality. They are so involved in their day-to-day business that they sometimes have blinders on as to what is really happening. They miss what the client really wants.

And they ultimately miss what the client really experiences as they interact with the organization.

Have you ever had an experience like the following:

You receive a gift or buy yourself something that’s not quite perfect, so you decide to return it. You check the receipt and it states “no hassle returns within 30 days.” You go to the store, receipt and item in hand, and find the perfect replacement item. You proceed to the nearest checkout line. You hand the receipt, old item, and new item to the cashier and say, “I’d like to exchange this.”

The cashier says, “Sure, that’s not a problem. I’d be happy to do that for you. Can I ask why you are returning it?”

“I just didn’t like it.”

The cashier says, “Okay, can you please give me your name, your email address, your telephone number, and your drivers license.” As you recite all of that information and fish through your pockets or bag, you think, “why do they need all of this info? I‘m not buying a gun, I just want to exchange one sweater for another.”

So after you provide the rest of the information, the cashier picks up the phone, and you hear the dreaded intercom, “manager to checkout.”

You ask yourself why they need to call a manager. The cashier says, “sorry this will just take a minute, but you will be credited $.75 and I need the manager to OK it.” Looking behind you, you notice that the line has grown and now seems to be snaking through the department, all eyes on you.

Finally, the manager saunters over, looks at the screen, types 4 numbers, and says “thanks, you’re all set.” You take your 3 quarters and your new sweater and walk out of the store with your head down so you don’t have to face the glaring eyes – as if you did something wrong.

  • Would you call that a hassle free return process?
  • If that store looked at that process through the eyes of their customers, do you think that they might decide to alter their return policy?
  • How many customers did they upset because of one ten-minute transaction for $.75? It wasn’t just you.
  • Why is that their policy? Does the policy exist for the benefit of the customer?
  • What message does this send to the cashier? To you, the customer? To other customers in line?

This is just one common example of a process that directly impacts the customer but does not treat the customer appropriately.

Typically, organizations execute dozens, even hundreds, of processes that impact the customer and can become targets for innovation and improvement.

The end result of innovation and process improvement is an increase in customer loyalty, and an increase in revenues.

What are some of the processes within your organization that have an impact on the customer, and more specifically processes that impact your ability to attract and retain them?

How about accounts receivable?
Manufacturing?
Assembly?
Packaging?
Buying processes?
Purchasing?
Marketing?
Billing?
Delivery?
Returns?

You can probably add more processes to your list. If management’s objective is to create and sustain a strategy of customer loyalty, looking at innovation and process improvement is profoundly important.

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