The sage advice “you are in business only as long as your customers agree to keep you in business”  by Anonymous and the famous quote by Henry Ford “ ..if I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said, faster horses!” seem to conflict. On one hand, the customers are in complete control and on the other, their advice on new products is limited. Which is more true?

As with most things in life, it is a balance of the two. We must understand our customers needs and the problems they face daily to be truly innovative. Our innovation plans must focus on solving our customers’ needs, but perhaps not in the way they envision.

Another great piece of advice from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also explains how to view your customers. “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” The best way to do this is through innovation that the customer will be excited about. My advice on actions to achieve the goal of innovation that excites is:

  1. First understand your customers’ needs by visiting multiple sites and observing the product or service you provide in use. Take great notes and video for later analysis with your team.
  2. Learn what your customers’ “Net Promoter Score”  (NPS) is for your company and product. I’m sure you have heard of this rating based on the 2003 Harvard report “The one number you need to grow” by Fred Reichheld. It does a great job of informing you if you are worthy of a recommendation by your customer. Use this score to inform your team of your current satisfaction rates. If they are low, your innovation needs more emphasis (see more info on NPS later).
  3. Work to understand what the biggest pain points are with your products. Every product has compromises that are used to smooth production, increase quality and promote durability. At times these compromises cause customers pain points and you are not even aware of it. Create a list of items that are hard to use, are slow to work, or are not durable for your team to review.
  4. Make it your goal to gain the most customer-based value possible. Understand what the customer values most by listening very carefully as they explain the day to day processes used to service their customers. If you can Innovate a solution to their most valued aspect, you will excite that customer for the long term.
  5. Bring all this information to your team for focused problem solving, then by Innovation brainstorming. The ideas that you create will have a big impact on your Customer satisfaction!

In point 2, I noted the NPS or “Net Promoter Score” methodology. It’s based on Reichheld’s book The Ultimate Question 2.0. Here’s a description:

“In the first edition of this landmark book, business loyalty guru Fred Reichheld revealed the question most critical to your company’s future: ‘Would you recommend us to a friend?’ By asking customers this question, you identify detractors, who sully your firm’s reputation and readily switch to competitors, and promoters, who generate good profits and true, sustainable growth. You also generate a vital metric: your Net Promoter Score. Since the book was first published, Net Promoter has transformed companies, across industries and sectors, constituting a game-changing system and ethos that rivals Six Sigma in its power.In this thoroughly updated and expanded edition, Reichheld, explains how practitioners have built Net Promoter into a full-fledged management system that drives extraordinary financial and competitive results.”

With his trademark clarity, Reichheld:

  • Defines the fundamental concept of Net Promoter, explaining its connection to your company’s growth and sustained success;
  • Presents the closed-loop feedback process and demonstrates its power to energize employees and delight customers, and;
  • Shares new and compelling stories of companies that have transformed their performance by putting Net Promoter at the center of their business.

Follow this link to order this important book.

Armed with this information and the five action points above, you will have great success with your focused innovation.

Keep Innovating!

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