Five Innovation Tips to Improve the Customer Experience

Leaders looking to improve the customer experience should avoid typical traps and adopt winning tactics

Executives love talking about innovation, but few enterprises are consistently good at it. The same could be said of the customer experience. In fact, innovation initiatives and customer experience projects face a lot of common challenges: they both run counter to how enterprises are organized; they are easily appreciated as important but rarely as urgent; and the people running the initiatives are almost never in a position to mandate all the changes required.

According to Mary Mesaglio, research vice president at Gartner, most leaders tasked with improving the customer experience sincerely want to innovate more, but get stymied by business-as-usual processes that, without intending to, smother genuine efforts to innovate their company’s customer experience (CX).

Ms. Mesaglio offers a few small tips that can help focus the CX innovation effort and avoid it from getting derailed down the road:

Don’t try to delight the customer
Instead, define exactly what you mean by “delight” and focus your efforts there. “Delight” in an engineer’s mind might mean more features. For someone who is financially focused, “delight” could well equal cheaper. For the salesperson, it could mean more customer freebies. For the inexperienced user, it could mean a simpler interface — and on and on. CX innovators should flee from fuzzy truisms such as “delight the customer” and aim for something more specific.

Sweat the small stuff
Tiny changes can make or break the CX. Try to find the “little elephants” – small ideas that will have big impact. Not all ideas are equal, and seemingly small ones might make all the difference. CX leaders should always start small, but aim big.

Don’t tell the truth – Show it
Create a rule that every new idea must be pitched using something beyond PowerPoint and Excel. Make the pitch tangible and appeal to all five senses. The value of technology innovation is hard to discern theoretically. Technology must be touched and felt to understand what it offers.

Embrace constraints in CX innovation
There is a myth that unconstrained, blue-sky thinking is the best way to approach innovation. In fact, a small number of well-chosen constraints about the CX innovation solution or process will drive more creativity than a blank-slate approach.

Be led by the customer’s needs, not the technology’s possibilities
Arguably the biggest error technology innovators make is to be seduced by a technology’s potential rather than being led by a customer’s actual needs. The farther away you are from the customer, the harder it is to evaluate the impact a technology innovation will have on a real-world customer experience. This is the trap of push innovation. Push innovation starts with a technology’s potential and works its way backward to how it might be applied to a user environment. This can lead to putting the technology before the user need.

More detailed analysis is available to Gartner clients in the report “Five Innovation Tips to Improve the Customer Experience.” This report is part of the Gartner Special Report “Customer Experience Emerges as the News Competitive Battlefield.” This report focuses on how greater competition and growing consumer power have eroded traditional product- and service-based differentiation, forcing firms to seek new, more durable forms of competitive advantage.

Analysts will explore the latest thinking in customer trends at the Gartner Customer 360 Summit in San Diego, September 9-11.

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