Having just completed an innovation session last week where The Brainzooming Group was leading a client in addressing its customer service experience innovation, this Brainzooming guest blog post from Woody Bendle was top of mind for me. Woody shares a robust approach to pursue if you are trying to address any opportunity to differentiate your organization relative to the customer experience you deliver:


Is customer service, or providing a great customer service experience at the core of your organization’s mission and strategy?

If so, I first want to congratulate you and encourage you to continue on this journey because it really can make all the difference in the world between success and failure!

Second, you also need to recognize that you are not alone.

Everybody Is Talking Excellent Customer Service

I did a quick Google search this morning on “excellent customer service mission.”  The search produced 46.2 million results!  Here are a few that came back:

  • We've aligned the entire organization around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible.  – Zappos
  • The mission of _____ is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.  – Southwest Airline
  • Exceed our customers' expectations by being the leading provider of safe, responsive, value-added services in the student transportation industry.  -  Laidlaw International
  • At the heart of delivering any and all of our solutions is incredible customer service, which we feel sets us apart from our competition.  -  TerpSys.com
  • Our mission is to provide our customers with superior products and outstanding customer service  -  Yardi Systems
  • We place the customer experience at the core of all we do. Our customers are the reason for our existence…. Our goal is quality, service, cleanliness and value (QSC&V) for each and every customer, each and every time.  -  McDonald’s
  • Create experiences so great the customer says, “Wow.” -  Oracle
  • Our goal is to provide the best customer service in our industry.  -  HeinOnline.com
  • Our customer service sets the standard. – Delta Dental of Illinois

Not only are you not alone, I’d say you are at risk of being the norm!  And, therein is the problem.

With so many organizations focusing on customer service, you have to assume if you are providing really good customer service, resulting in a pretty good overall customer experience, you are likely close to providing what is expected by today’s consumer.  But, this probably only keeps you in the game; and it may not be setting you apart.

In order to set your organization apart from your competitors - in terms of customer service and experience - you have to innovate.  You need to develop and provide a customer service experience that is:

  • Truly unique (through the eyes of your customers), and
  • Highly valued.

Figuring out whether or not you are doing something truly unique is easy enough.  When you walk into an Apple Store you know you are experiencing something different. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being visited by The Geek Squad, you know you’ve experienced something different. It probably made a positive impression on you.

Recognizing something different after you’ve experienced it is pretty easy, but how do you come up with that idea in the first place?  Also, how do you determine whether or not it is something that will be highly valued by your current and potential customers?  And perhaps even more important, how do you determine if there is even a significant opportunity to differentiate your organization through customer service (or experience) innovation?

To answer these questions, you essentially need to do two things:

  • Thoroughly understand all of the things your customers want and expect from their engagements with your organization.
  • Determine the extent to which you have an opportunity to differentiate your organization from its competition in a way that is truly valued by the marketplace.

Thoroughly Understand Your Customer’s Needs, Wants, and Expectations

Yes, I heard you say “well….duh!” But this is always the foundation for creating a successful innovation.  So many new products and companies failing, you’ll be surprised to learn it is actually a lot simpler than people make it out to be.  You just have to do it!

To thoroughly understand your customers’ needs, wants and expectations, you need to ask and exhaustively answer the following questions:

  • Why is it that they are engaging with our organization at all – that is, what is it our organization is helping them do or accomplish?
  • What do they want to accomplish as a result of engaging with us?
  • Is their engagement with us a means to accomplishing something else?
  • How do they feel (or want to feel) while they are engaging with our company, our associates, or brand?
  • Why are they choosing our organization over another?
  • What contributed to their choosing us versus someone else?
  • What could possibly get in the way of them engaging with us?
  • How do they determine whether or not they had a successful experience that met or exceeded their expectations?

If you want to innovate, it is important to obtain as many answers to each of these questions as possible.  As you obtain one answer, go ahead and ask:

  • Why else?
  • What else?
  • How else?

Another oft referenced technique I absolutely love is “5 Whys.” By probing deeper and deeper with each and every question, and continuing to ask why, you will uncover many interesting and surprising insights.

As I mentioned earlier though, thoroughly understanding your customers’ needs is only the beginning.

Determine Your Opportunity to Innovate

Armed with a lot of really interesting answers to the above questions, you need to determine how important each of these things is to your customers, and how well they feel you and your competitors help them with what they want to accomplish.  A proven tool you can use to gauge the opportunity for innovation is called the “opportunity algorithm.”  After you’ve performed your opportunity analysis, you will be able to pinpoint you organization’s most significant areas for service and experience innovation.

At this point you know how differentiated your organization is from your competition, and whether or not you actually have an opportunity to deliver a knockout service and experience innovation.

There are several additional (and critical) steps you will need to take if you want to develop and get your service and experience innovation to market. These include:

  • Developing several possible innovation solutions
  • Determining the extent to which each possible solution meets and ideally exceeds customer expectations
  • Calculating if you can profitably implement the innovation, and
  • Assessing how unique and defensible your customer service innovation really is

In a forthcoming Brainzooming article, I will detail these next steps for customer service and experience innovation. Until then, you have the first steps to get started.

Since I’m an individual who loves and genuinely appreciates new and distinctive customer service experiences, I’m rooting for you to get started leaping out of this sea of sameness!  Woody Bendle


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