Experience Is Opportunity

From an innovation standpoint – as well as an overall business excellence point of view – I prefer to view the customer experience as a huge opportunity. An opportunity to innovate, top to bottom, side to side, through the entire experience. An opportunity rising far beyond the product to deliver net customer value. The ability to do this well separates the superstars from the rest, and few get it right. Why? There are lots of reasons – or excuses – but here are three I often run into or observe as I view the real world:

“The experience isn’t sexy enough.” R&D designers and product development folks like to think about technology and all the exciting, cool stuff technology can bring. They tend to be product-centric and techno-centric, and they can’t get their arms around mundane things like packaging, instruction sheets and call center manners. So they often simply avoid these matters, and leave them to someone else in the organization. That may be okay, because perhaps a highly paid Ph.D. engineer shouldn’t be working on call center scripts. The problem is that it often falls through the cracks – nobody else picks it up – or if they do, they haven’t studied innovation and they can’t really do it. So the matter stays buried within the cracks, and the customer experience continues to, well, suck.

“It’s all small stuff.” The same R&D or product development folks – and the rest of management for that matter – may simply not be aware of, or even care about failures in customer experience. To them, it’s all small stuff. They assume the customer is such a big fan of their product that, well, the big thing is the product, and nothing else is terribly important.  If anyone had thought about this detail – or the myriad other details that come up in a customer experience – chances are they would have done something about it.

“Outside our expertise.” Product development and R&D people may bail on customer experience innovation because it takes them into areas they know little about in marketing, operations, channel management and so forth. But too many organizations drop the ball right there, not placing enough impetus on these other organizations to innovate. I believe every group or function in an organization should have its own “lab,” and be chartered or sponsored to come up with its own innovations, and be rewarded and able to showcase those innovations just like the product development function. The entire organization – not just the product development lab – must participate in innovation