“Foster creative problem solving. In the real world, there is no answer key” – NextLesson
Before we get into why creative problem solving is vital for service excellence, it is important to understand what this technique is. Simply put creative problem solving is about finding solutions and removing challenges in unique and imaginative ways. Using this technique ensures that companies come up with innovative and actionable ideas to resolve problems and conduct business better than ever before. This technique therefore, finds application in all realms of business, especially within customer service. Each customer is different. Their needs, expectations, emotions, and demands are unique which means that customers expect customized and creative solutions to whatever they place before a company. While companies may have a standard method and typical solutions to common problems, it is critical that they present these methods differently and creatively to each customer, such that customers feel special and cared.
Irrespective of the length of time a company may have been in business, or the number of times it may have resolved customer problems, there are times when a particular issue could prove to be more problematic than others, leading to a dead-end while trying to resolve it. The company may have either incorrectly understood the problem or the approach to resolving it would be faulty. It is in such overwhelming situations that creative problem solving can prove extremely beneficial. By thinking differently, and imaginatively it would be possible to come up long-term solutions, as opposed to quick fix ones and potentially damaging shortcuts. The good news is that there are several creative problem solving methods and tools, using which companies can redefine problems and find solutions that may not have hitherto be conceived. The fact is customers love companies that can provide speedy yet effective solutions to their problems – it reflects the competence and dedication of a company. In return, customers tend to reward companies with trust, loyalty, and brand advocacy.
Is your company prone to covering up problems with quick fixes, or is creative problem solving an integral part of company’s culture and operational ‘fabric’? It is important, to start with, for a company to use the most appropriate customer support tool – meaning that it should be able to find the best solution out of the several options available – the solution that would be most effective both, for the customer and the company. It is important and necessary for a company to connect with their customers regularly to check on whether the solutions are working well, and if anything different can be done. Creative problem solving is about consistently finding the solution that would work best given the most current needs and problems of customers.
As mentioned creative problem solving, can happen only when a company truly understands itself – its strengths, capabilities, shortcomings, and the abilities of their employees. Even though serving customers should be the responsibility of everyone within an organization, the team that is consistently responsible for customer satisfaction, would be the customer service team. It is imperative that this team receives relevant training continuously to think creatively and have the empowerment to act speedily on the problems. Monitoring and tracking customer satisfaction levels forms a big part of the creative problem solving technique – the changes in these levels would indicate how well or not a company would be performing with regarding to solving or better still, preventing problems faced by customers.
It would seem obvious that in order to become proficient at creative problem solving for customer issues, understanding them thoroughly would be extremely necessary for a company. There are several ways to do so, and leading the pack would be to ask customers directly as to what they want, need, and expect. This does not mean that a company need spend too much time, money, or effort in gathering the information – informal emails, a direct chat, or creating in-house feedback questionnaires are all effective methods to understand customers. In addition, people leave data and information via their online presence such as social media pages – and these sources of customer information must be explored regularly. Once a company has enough information on the interests, preferences, pain areas, expectations, and other aspects of customers, this information would be of immense help in putting together solutions that would be creative and long-term.
In the past, the only two means customers had to make contact with companies was through a personal visit or phone calls. Today, there is access to emails, social media, online forums, live chat, websites, and other means through which customers can connect with a company. Even if a company may not have the ability to provide support via all the channels, it should be able to provide at least a couple of avenues for customers to connect. Thinking of which channels would be most preferred, and ensuring they work efficiently is all part of creative problem solving – the customer must never be inconvenienced. In addition, a company must also understand that people love getting free stuff – it makes them feel wanted and appreciated. It makes customers feel that they are constantly receiving from the company, which over time translates to a deep emotional connection leading to loyalty and brand affinity. This is part of creative problem solving since free stuff too needs to be valuable, relevant, and useful for customers – customized to suit their personality / lifestyle / preferences.
“Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don’t view them as part of the problem” – Alan Weiss – this is an integral part of creative problem solving. The more a company can involve its customers to find solutions to their particular problems, the more appropriate and relevant those solutions would be, and would come around in a much shorter timeframe. When a company would have built trust and emotional relationships with some customers, it would be a lot easier to get these customers to help with finding innovative and creative solutions to problems. In addition, the top line of a company must be part of this process such that customers feel confident, employees can emulate the behaviours, and the whole company would remain focused on forging better relationships with customers. Creative problem solving is about taking customer service to new heights consistently.
Every company today understands the importance of good customer service, and most seem to follow a ‘scripted’ method of providing service. However, a company can stand out by offering unique service experiences – ways that no other market player may have implemented in the past or in the present. Creative problem solving and innovative experiences are an integral part of service excellence, for which customers are sure to reward a company. The fact is helping customers is the best strategy of all – how a company does it would depend on its focus and ability for creative problem solving and customer-centricity. Everything a company does – including the website, content, messages, and other things – must reflect its dedication and commitment to better the lives of customers and ensure their happiness. The better and more consistently a company can do this, the easier it would be for the company to become better at creative problem solving and providing service excellence. Customers may not always be right – but a company that can respect them and show courtesy even when they are wrong, would already be on its way to creative problem solving – solving its own problems of long-term profitability and sustainable success.