Customer-centric innovation to drive performance

Customer-centric innovation to drive performance


Nous Principal Zac Ashkansay shares his six ‘ah-ha’ insights from the Knowledge Lab’s Customer-Centric Innovation event in Sydney.

I recently had the privilege of chairing the Knowledge Lab’s Customer-Centric Innovation event in Sydney. The diverse expertise of speakers and attendees generated great conversation and provided real insights into our innovation efforts – where we are leading and succeeding but also where we are encountering common challenges.

For me, there were six ‘ah-ha’ insights that I took from the event that I wanted to share.

Purpose and strategy are important, but execution is where we are most challenged

A strong sense of purpose allows an organisation to be flexible and agile with innovation while maintaining a sense of unity and cohesion. As Rob Glennon, Group Director Customer Experience at My Republic, noted “great strategy stops you from getting confused and trying to ‘go north and south’ at the same time”. But for many organisations these are the easy parts. Rob then made the very important point that execution is where the effort can really derail. Leadership, culture, and a continued lack of real connect to ‘customer’ needs within the organisation are the perennial pinch points.

Culture and customer experience can’t be considered in isolation

It was interesting how strong culture was as a theme at the conference, it was as prevalent as technology as a topic of conversation. Relationships with customers are everything, regardless of the channel used to develop and nurture them. While we can delight through good user experience design and advanced applications of technology, it’s the personal connection, empathy and understanding of emotion that must come through all connection points. This comes from your people – their understanding and concern for customers and ability to make customer-centric decisions in the moment. So your people and culture effort must be enmeshed with your customer innovation agenda.

Being truly ‘outside-in’ means considering what that means for every role and every decision in your business

NPS targets, real time customer feedback, and voice of the customer programs may be helpful in creating a more customer centric organisation. But even with these in place, organisations can still be highly internally focused without realising it. So… do all your staff have regular contact with customers? Do your finance and people teams understand customer experience and how they impact through their everyday decisions? Do your marketing and people teams talk to each other? Market leaders in customer experience make relationships with customer’s front of mind for everyone!

Mass personalisation is here

If we are truly customer-centric then we are delivering on the needs of each individual customer. For many years, there has been talk about how we achieve this ambition at scale. At the conference it was interesting to hear that we are finally starting to achieve this. Technology and advances in data analytics is certainty aiding this. For example, technology is now available so that when you walk into a shop, you are given prompts and promotions specific to who you are. News is now personalised to your preferences… for good or bad! Equally, just the simple human interaction should be viewed as an opportunity to personalise…though sadly we all still seem to come across as ‘robots’ in our service operations. i.e. ‘Computer says no’.

Don’t be obsessed with scale – do things first and see if they scale later. Test innovation company wide and celebrate failure

It’s not too often a guy dressed in a bear suits floors the audience with a most brilliant presentation and insight. However, Matt Barnett the Head Honcho from Verbate did just this. As part of his presentation, he highlighted the importance of the ‘innovation snowball’ effect. That is, lots of little innovation collectively builds into something big. Just going after the one big idea is just plain risky….it is a bit like the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) in corporate finance where spreading risk actually increasing return. BTW…..Matt was in a bear suit because he was making an important point about authenticity.

Fragility is key to innovation

Most of us know this but don’t like it applied to us personally. That is, innovation should be done with hunger to work and not with many resources. It is only through scrapping that true north and the critical path is realised. This is easier to achieve in a start-up and a much bigger challenge to achieve in an established organisation. Thank you to Toon Gyssels, the CEO of Foodora, for so eloquently highlighting and sharing this insight.

The Customer-Centric Innovation Lab was presented by Knowledge Lab in February 2017.

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