What does it mean to transform the customer experience?

October 20, 2011

What does it mean to transform the customer experience?

When I started working on my latest book, Smart or Lucky? How Technology Leaders Turn Chance into Success, I thought a lot about what makes one company sustain itself over decades while other companies fade away.  What does innovation really mean and how does it happen? Innovation is not an easy achievement. Many companies that find themselves in trouble proclaim that they will improve their fortunes by through innovation.  While it makes sense it can be somewhat perplexing.  Shouldn’t companies always be focused on innovation? Isn’t it logical to assume that if a company were consistently innovating that they would not get themselves into a mess? One of the biggest problems with companies attempting to innovate is that they often don’t ask the right questions.  What do I mean? Here is the type of questions companies ask customers:

    • What features would you like to see in the next rev of our product?
    • Are you happy with the products we sell you?
    • What is your reaction to our product roadmap?
    • How could the roadmap be improved?

Many companies spend lots of money and time establishing customer advisory boards, setting up focus groups and the like to make sure that they are prepared for future customer requirements.  Don’t get me wrong – I think it is important to keep in touch with customers and ask them about the products and services that they use on a regular basis.  For example, every time I go to my local Apple store I get a survey about how satisfied I was with the service I got. If I wasn’t happy, I get a phone call from the store manager.  It’s a nice touch and certainly makes me feel good.  But that alone will not have any influence on whether I buy a new Apple product or not.

So, what should companies be asking customers about what they want? I think they need to focus on customer pain and the white space in the market.  So, if I were that company looking to be innovative here is what I would ask:

    • What problems are you looking to solve that you can’t solve right now?
    • What is most annoying about working with our company?
    • If you could wave a magic wand and three things would change about us, what would they be?
    • What direction is your company headed and how can our company help you achieve your aspirations with less pain?

Does your company ask these types of questions? I would guess that the answer is probably no.  Most companies have a well-honed machine of internal and external individuals that focus 100 percent of their attention on surveying customers.  They produce reports so that they can prove to their management and shareholders that they are focused on the customer.  If a company wants to innovate it has to change the way it thinks about innovation and satisfying customers. Isn’t that what innovation is all about?

Judith Hurwitz , , , , , ,
About Judith Hurwitz

Judith Hurwitz is an author, speaker and business technology consultant with decades of experience.

One Comment
  1. Judith,

    Can’t say that I fully agree with you. Innovation requires listening. But, customers tend to express what they want in context of the product they have. This results in incremental improvements. Hardly innovation. The key is tom probe to understand the problem, contest and drivers. Open-ended questions.& seeking outlier customers critical for this.

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