There’s a lot of talk about innovation in the business world. But innovation is more than just a buzzword—it should be the culture and mindset of customer experience professionals. The best customer experiences push beyond the norm to provide creative, unique and memorable experiences and services for customers.
According to best-selling author Josh Linkner, customer experience is a platform for creative expression. Every single person is creative, and one way we can manifest it is through finding creative and innovative customer solutions. Innovation will ultimately drive value for the brand. Linker recommends thinking of customer experience as a blank canvas and finding new ways to win.
In order to do that, brands need to examine every touchpoint they have with customers and look for ways to improve the interaction and outshine the competition. Creativity doesn’t always mean trying something out of left field. In many cases, innovation happens with simple ideas that challenge what’s always been done. Linkner gives the example of a company in Korea that started packaging its bananas based on ripeness so that customers could work their way through the package and have a ripe banana every day. The simple, innovative solution led the company to charge three times more and crush the sales numbers.
Many companies fall into the rut of focusing on efficiency instead of encouraging innovation, but efficiency can only get you so far. In our fast-paced world, we can’t rely on models of the past. Customers crave innovation and new solutions. Creativity is the one thing that can’t be outsourced or automated. It can become a powerful competitive advantage.
Many companies overestimate the risk of trying something new and underestimate the risk of standing still. Leaders and employees at all levels need to encourage creative ideas—both good and bad—to get people talking. Removing judgement and building resilience can create an environment where innovation thrives.
An innovative mindset can also help companies evaluate existing processes and mix things up from what’s always been done. Ben and Jerry’s does this by holding a funeral for retiring flavors and literally burying them in a casket. It isn’t a mark of failure that a flavor didn’t sell well, but instead a celebration of what the brand accomplished and a signal to start fresh with a new idea. All it takes is one person to look at something they’ve seen 100 times with a creative point of view to find a new solution.
Innovation is the root of customer experience. Stale and stagnant experiences don’t build strong relationships with customers and will get overlooked for innovative ideas from the competition. To lead the pack and best serve customers, Linkner says individuals and companies must bring their creative souls to the surface and see what amazing results ensue.