Innovation is challenging

“Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.” – Roger Von Oech

Innovation by its very definition is ongoing and continuous and that perhaps why it is one of the reasons why innovation is challenging. Customer service staff is constantly called to practice this since they are the ones that handle customers on a daily basis and several times a day. Unless they are able to think in a variety of ways they will be unable to service the customer effectively. Innovation comes with practice and is a process not something that happens for no apparent reason. Customer service staff must be made aware of the process of innovation that begins with the customer’s problem or need and should end with an implementable solution that would be seen as adding value to the customer and company. It would be tempting for the customer service staff to offer the first solution that comes to mind, in an attempt to ‘get rid’ of the customer posing the problem. Not being inclined to look at solutions creatively is what would make staff believe that innovation is challenging in customer service. Using rote examples or previous experiences or asking a supervisor for a solution or looking up the internet for solutions, provide answers but not innovative solutions.

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In all walks of life the people who are able to transform problems in to challenges and look at innovation, are the ones who are more likely to remain happy and succeed. The same applies to companies and their staff – thinking of innovative ways to overcome challenges will be crucial to success and long term sustainability. Creative and innovative companies ensure that their staff looks at problems with a view to generate multiple ideas to resolve it and maybe with hitherto not applied methods. Customer service staff may not always have the luxury of time to brainstorm solutions, but with regular practice and training, would inculcate a mindset to view innovation as a must do rather than as something burdensome. More often than not, they would be able to offer solutions that are of most value, rather than run-of-the-mill solutions.

Thinking innovatively about a problem first requires that the problem be broken down in to segments to be able to ascertain the root cause. This is great way to coach the customer service staff to understand the problem posed by the customer more efficiently and faster. Again, given the nature of the job done by the customer service staff, which is many times under staffed and overworked, it poses a challenge to think beyond the most obvious solution which may turn out to be just a quick fix. Allow time to your customer service staff to train and be coached in breaking down a problem quickly to get to the root of it.

– When a customer calls, they are looking for a resolution of their problem and even though want a quick response expect that the solution is permanent. If the problem is minor it would work well to offer a quick solution which would be sufficient but if the problem is more complex, the customer must be informed of the same. The staff must ask a question of why the problem posed is a problem. Is it because of incorrect processes or a faulty product or inadequate troubleshooting methods or other such reasons? Breaking a problem down will start the process of identifying the most innovative solution for it.

– After breaking down the problem the next step would be understand why the problem occurred. Through careful analysis it will be obvious that the first solution that comes to mind may not be the most ideal. Not taking the time to brainstorm and de-construct a problem is one of the reasons that people would say that innovation is challenging and this could lead to a re-occurrence of the problem in the long run. Also it could lead companies to believe that the problem is occurring due to an error on their part when actually the customer may not be applying the processes or guidelines provided or may be skipping vital steps mentioned in the troubleshooting guides.

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– The urgency and importance of the problem could pose as one of the challenges to innovation. Since an urgent problem would require urgent and faster solutions, some vital steps may get ignored while providing a solution. Thinking creatively could save the company from making another error that could lead to different problems.

– Comparing your strategies with that of your closest competitors is a good way of knowing how they are dealing with the specific problem. It may not be easy to get this information as poses as one of the challenges to innovation. If companies were to look out for tell-tale signs, like customer comments pertaining to the issue, it is possible to get a feel of some solutions. This is a great way to gain or maintain market leadership and be seen as innovators. Search for solutions other than and superior to those being provided by the competition and you will find yourself in the driver’s seat. Customers will find it easier to trust you and will perceive you as having mastery in the field of innovation.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

– All the information gathered by the methods above would make for quite an exhaustive amount of useful data that presents a significant opportunity to come up with innovative solutions that would place the company in a position of authority. Innovation is challenging, but overcoming a challenge through a systematic approach yields profitable results in the long haul. Profitability like customer trust and loyalty and a strong command in the market.

Imperceptible and piece meal approaches to innovation are insufficient and do not compare with the fierceness of the intense challenges that any company faces now. Innovation is challenging when companies are trying to ‘learn’ when the situation may be demanding an ‘unlearning’. Innovation demands that companies focus on their internal strategies and completely do away with outmoded ones and work towards reducing the feel that innovation is challenging. This allows the company leaders to see the real face of innovation and implement newer processes that can be termed as innovative. Not reinventing themselves constantly is the real danger and challenge and will surely stand in the way of actual innovation.

Of course it is true that innovation is challenging and given the many possible stumbling blocks companies must not be under any illusion that producing innovation will be cake walk. To think that innovating would be easy and anything but challenging in the current and future market scenarios, is a mistake only a novice would make. It would be the responsibility of every member of the company to take steps towards making innovation a way of life if they want to provide elevated levels of customer service and raise their company to the league extraordinaire.

Leaders play a key role in driving innovation and overcoming its challenges.

– Getting personally involved and displaying unwavering commitment will eliminate some barriers in making innovative ideas work.
– Have written material, that would be relevant to the innovation methods being looked at within the company, readily available
– Form a core group to drive and percolate these innovations across the company. Regular meetings and brainstorming exercises will help maintain focus and keep the ideas fresh.
– To create an innovation culture, ensure that all members of the organization are regularly updated and coached on the benefits of the planned innovations. Some innovations might cause an inconvenience but would be beneficial for all in the long run.

Working together to achieve new heights in innovation must be the top priority and with time and concerted effort saying innovation is challenging will be a thing of the past. As companies become more and more habituated in breaking down and segmenting problems, it will become easier to come with increasingly effective and innovative solutions. Your customers will view you as a value added partner and remain with you for a long time. Innovation is challenging – not an impossibility!

“True innovation is coming up with a product that the customer didn’t even know they needed.” – STARTUPVITAMINS

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