Innovation for Better Customer Service

“Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time.” – Bill Gates

Innovation means different things to different people. The one constant however, is that innovation in every aspect of life and business will put its ‘supporters’ on the fast track to success. For businesses, using innovation for better customer service would mean bridging the gap between what the company offers versus the expectations of customers. It is an understanding that there are better ways of doing things, ways to approach problems differently and achieve better customer service standards – possibly even beyond the customer’s expectations.

There is possibly no industry and company that has not experienced substantial changes in what customers now expect and these sudden and sharp changes have put considerable pressure on them. Today’s customer is demanding and wants more from companies and customer service and without innovation and company-wide commitment, keeping pace with these demands will become impossible. Companies that have a grip on this understanding would put together strategies and policies that reflect a forward thinking approach complemented by innovation. Such a mind-set would lead to transparency, enhanced service performance and sharper focus on customers. In this age where customers are in control, innovation leading to better customer service could be the area that companies can use to stand out in the market and gain a competitive advantage.

Why is it so important to use innovation for better customer service? The fact is that it is highly unlikely that customers will let go of the control and power they now wield and trying to get it back could prove to be a losing and even costly battle for companies. Businesses would much rather accept the shift in control and use every opportunity they have to deploy innovation to provide enhanced and stellar customer service. Innovation enables a company to interact with customers in a better and speedier manner by using all the channels available. Their understanding of customers would be more comprehensive and detailed making it easier to provide customized solutions for any customer issue. Innovation would equip companies to use the tools at their disposal in new ways and implement tried and tested solutions to suit the current requirements. The more innovatively a company can think, the better they would serve their customers and that to without too much effort and costs on themselves.

Using innovation to better customer service provides a company with more flexibility – it gives the people freedom to experiment, think of and try out new ideas and become unafraid of taking risks and of failure. The essence of innovation is to first shun fear of the unexpected and using every possible resource to advantage. It can begin even by making small and part changes to current offerings, processes and strategies, if large-scale innovation and a complete revamp are not possible. Successful innovation allows a company to stay relevant and in the forefront by capturing the attention of the market and customers. In this systematic innovation process, companies could focus on one pain area of customers – the alleviation of which would have tangible results for the customer and the company alike.

Aligning the pain areas faced by customers and using innovation to reduce some of the ‘pain’ will mean that customers see value in the association. Their expectations would be met and needs taken care of, enabling their success, which would mean success for the company too. Innovation allows a company to achieve its own business goals by gaining success and fulfilment for the customers – the very foundation of great customer service. The reason many companies fail to innovate is because, they do not take the time to figure out customer pain areas. These pain points can be anywhere – something in their own business, lapses in customer service, difficulty in sourcing products and any other such pain areas, which they may need help with. By using innovation and creativity, a company can remedy some of these areas – it could start with addressing the needs of the company’s most significant and valuable customers and then move on to cover a wider portion of the customer base.

Of course, it makes sense to get customer buy-in. A company could be apprehensive of its innovative ideas, especially the ones that may be completely ‘raw’ but enlisting the help of some of the ‘best’ customers would gain some great ideas for the company. Asking customers to try the innovative solutions and lend advice on the results would let companies know whether their innovation is on the right track and would truly alleviate customer problems.

By consistent innovation for better customer service, companies would be able to engage with customers more consistently and in a more efficient manner. Companies would gain a better understanding of each customer interface and would be able to use innovation to strike a fine balance between providing human interactions in some situations and automated service in others. They would be able to display service quality as their USP and garner more attention that is positive. Innovation and consistent improvement enables companies to establish themselves as thought leaders and marketplace guides. Companies that use innovation in every aspect relating to customers would find it easier to draw customers towards themselves. Companies would work as unified ‘bodies’ by eliminating silos that may have existed hitherto in any form, since implementing any kind of change would be impossible without everyone’s support.

When companies use innovation with an aim to improve customer service, they would look for better ways to integrate all the channels of communication such that customers gain more from every interaction and enjoy unified and seamless service. The main repository of customer data for any company would be its customer service teams. By using innovation, companies can leverage the power of this data to arrive at distinct solutions and unique products and services, which no other company would be able to offer. This in turn would lead to added business and a growth in revenue and profits for the company. The real benefit of innovation is to create a high-performance company that does not only produce great offerings but is able to master the essence of customer service and do away with ineffective processes. None of these activities can run in isolation – they must be done while running the daily operations and with a mind-set to create true value for the customer and the company together.

The thing about innovation for better customer service and overall improvement is that it must be scalable and repeatable. In the present, the upgrades must be noticeable, but there should also be a possibility to repeat the successes in the future too. To do so, constant monitoring of the innovative processes is critical. Companies should be able to ask and receive answers on questions such as – has customer engagement improved? Is there an enhancement in customer satisfaction levels? What costs and how much has the company been able to save? What more could be done to achieve better results on a consistent basis? This information should be easy to get and everyone in the company should have access to it – since as mentioned, innovation for better customer service is everyone’s responsibility and hence everyone should be informed of changes and future expectations.

The need of the hour of any company operating within any industry would be to shift their focus towards truly changing the way they serve customers. Cultivating a mind-set and culture of innovation would enable companies to serve their customers and other business partners better even by making small and simple changes.

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