Today, people appreciate good Customer Experience, but not enough to talk about it a lot. What gets them talking to people about your brand is having a unique Customer Experience with moments of Innovative Service, or an Innovative Customer Experience.
In other words, a good Customer Experience is important, but an Innovative Customer Experience is better because your customers tell stories about it. Some of those stories are in person; some are online, and others related in 280 characters or less.
However, your customers tell the story, innovative service is the way to earn a customer’s loyalty. It is also the way to earn the business of their friends, family, and followers.
We had a guest that explained why Innovative Service is crucial to Customer Experience on our recent podcast. Author and speaker Dr. Chip Bell is a world-renowned authority on innovative service and customer loyalty consulting. Bell also helps many Fortune 100 companies implement innovative customer-centric strategies.
What Do We Mean by Innovative Service?
Innovative service is creating experiences that are not just value-added but also value- unique. Value-added is what your customer usually gets and, over time, expects; value-unique is giving your customer what they expect and adding more. It is a customer centric surprise that delights your customers.
Bell describes innovative service as a gesture of generosity hopefully exceeding the customer’s expectations. It’s creative, different, and unexpected. The goal is not to make the customer go, “Wow!” but make them go, “Whoa! I didn’t expect that.”
When you are looking at how to deliver an Innovative Customer Experience, you have to consider a few things:
- Which experiences have surprised you in the past and how did they contribute to your customer loyalty?
- What kind of things can you surprise the customer with that are appropriate for your experience?
- How can you enable your team to have them deliver on the “Whoa!” moments?
One of the pitfalls of Customer Experience is that once you have added value, it becomes part of the offer and loses its effect. For example, if you are a frequent flyer and you get upgraded to first class on a flight, you recognize that it is a benefit, or added-value of being a frequent flyer. However, you also start to anticipate upgrades in the future on other flights. Your expectations have gone up. Since the airplane only has so many first-class seats, the disappointment of not getting upgraded is a certainty.
Bell says that there are limits to generosity but not to ingenuity. If you have different ways of rewarding your customers, you are always surprising them. You also have more options to provide a “Whoa!” moment.
Bell says there is no limit to creating ingenious ways to get an unexpected response. For example, Bell’s wife traded in her old car and bought a new one. When she turned on the radio for the first time, she discovered that the dealership had programmed her radio stations into it. Her reaction? You guessed it, surprise and delight. It was a “Whoa!” moment
What he likes about this example is that it was unexpected and straightforward, meaning it didn’t require rolling out red carpets or hiring dancing girls. Also, it was customer centric and appropriate, which probably can’t be said for red carpets or dancing girls—at least not in this experience.
Also, there is a story here. Bell says she doesn’t talk about the car; she talks about the radio. She told the story to all her friends and family about the inventive way the dealership surprised her with programming her favorite stations. Now, Bell tells the story all the time, too, proving that innovative experiences get more airtime than excellent ones.
Creating “Whoa!” Moments in Your Experience
As a global Customer Experience consultant these past two decades, I’ve worked with many organizations where they seem to have blinders on. They certainly don’t seem to have the ability to create new innovative ways to surprise and delight the customer. So, how can you implement the idea of innovative Customer Experiences in your organization?
Bell has a few ideas for this:
- Prove to senior management it works. As I have said many times before, you have to have senior management on board if you want to do anything and Bell agrees. High-level management love metrics. You have to show them in actual numbers how having innovative Customer Experience produces results. Bell recommends pilot programs to serve as evidence that providing innovative customer service works to increase customer retention and loyalty for your senior management team.
- Define customer loyalty for your organization. People often define terms differently; you need to ensure they define customer loyalty in the same way. A common mistake is thinking that customer retention is loyalty. However, customer retention can have a lot of motivations, and loyalty might not be any of them. Customer behavior is the best indicator of customer loyalty. Customers that spend more, trust you with more of their business, and recommend you to their friends and family are demonstrating their loyalty through their actions.
- Measure what customers do, not what customers say they will do. I have always had my issues with NPS, which is a metric that gives a score to organizations based on responses to the question “How likely are you to recommend us to friends and family?” The higher the score, the more likely they are to recommend you. However, it doesn’t track whether customers do it. Saying you will endorse a brand to your friends and family is not the same as actually making the endorsement. Bell proposes that instead of asking customers if they will recommend you in the future (the NPS question), ask if they did recommend you already. What you hear back from that question will be the real measure of the effect of your innovative Customer Experience.
- Ensure that employees have the leeway to do what it takes to keep it fresh.Employee engagement is essential for Innovative Service to work in your CX design strategy. The people who deliver the experience need to believe in the concept behind it, and they need to have the ability to change it up in the moment if necessary. So, you have to trust employees enough to allow them to be creative with customers and the freedom to make the decisions they need to at the moment. Otherwise, they will end up delivering an innovative Customer Experience that has gone a bit stale—and a bit ineffective.
Innovating Customer Experience goes back to the concept from Behavioral Economics, the Reference Point. Reference points, as you might recall, are the ways we compare experiences whether to a previous experience with the organization or another Customer Experience in general. In this case, an innovative Customer Experience, or a “Whoa!” moment, can violate a customer’s expectations and differ from the Reference Point, but positively.
One of the problems in Customer Experience today is many times organizations are looking for the magic bean of experience design. They want a simple solution that will fix all their experience problems. Firms are looking for the one thing they need to repair or buy. They want to change the process in one way that will solve everything else.
It doesn’t exist. As I have said before, there are no simple solutions in Customer Experience.
What Bell suggests is a systematic shift in mindset, a different CX strategy altogether. It’s not about a single decision you’re going to make.
It’s an entirely new approach through empowerment of employees through an understanding of what your customers’ expectations are and what drives customer delight. Moreover, the ability to pull that together and have a culture that is conducive to it also provides Innovative Service that leads to Innovative Customer Experiences.
Best of all, you create a great story for your customers to share with friends and family and followers. They might tell it once, twice, or in 280 characters or less, but I will take any of those numbers over a “likely-to recommend” NPS score of 10 and a story that never gets told at all.
To hear more about Innovative Customer Experience in more detail, listen to the complete podcast here.
If you want to benchmark your organization’s performance in the new world of behavioral economics against other companies, take our short questionnaire. Once you submit, we compare your answers against what we know about the market and send you a free personalized report about where your organization is today.
Hear the rest of the conversation on “How to Create Innovative Service”on The Intuitive Customer Podcast. These informative podcasts are designed to expand on the psychological ideas behind understanding customer behavior. To listen in, please click here.
organizations. Colin is an international author of six bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter @ColinShaw_CX