Innovation … with customer touch

You have a brilliant new solution to present for the market. Technology, software, or a combination. In the B2B context. Are you now ready for the market entry, to present an appealing promise for the customers?

  • “Yes, as the technology will be unique on the market … yes, as we have researched market needs and have successfully piloted the product with some customers”.
  • “But, but … you have innovated a technology … have you also innovated the ways to deliver and serve it?
  • ”Hmmm …”
  • “If not, you have considered too much “what” instead of “how” of the customer promise. Doesn’t the great product deserve an innovative service concept, as well?”

Breaking down the silos in R&D projects

Don’t leave the service aspect into a sub-role in technology innovation projects. Products and ways-to-serve should be invented within the same process.

Bringing in the how-to-serve perspective requires a special setting – breaking down the organizational silos.  The development work advances by working across the different roles and mindsets: sales, product, marketing, software designers and R&D teams – co-working the concept for customers together.  The ideation requires iterations between service provider role and customer role – and back. Part of the process is also to explain – besides product use – the anatomies of trust and commitment in the service provider – customer partnership.

The role of customer frontline people

They take the lead to explain required changes in collaboration with the customers. Understanding current user behaviors, listening to customers, knowledge from customer anthropology, or customer competence to use the new technology are some of the raw material that may reflect to the technology design.

The strong customer orientation in the development phase reveals gaps in the total offering. What is required by the technology, affects the concept of service – and vice versa.

For new solution design: speculate on the evolution of user experience + trust + commitment.

The early involvement of the customer frontline teams enables to bring in deep tacit knowledge about customer latent needs. As a result, you are better prepared, as testing or piloting with customers begins.  This setting for B2B innovation context is also valuable for devotion of the sales, service and marketing teams to the new solution at go-to-market.   

Customer empathy is the glue

The key idea is in the way that the different mindsets of innovation work together. For engineers, innovation means new technology. For software designers, it might e.g. be a new software for AI or IoT.  For marketing and service people, it may mean differentiation by means of UX (user experience).  

Excellence comes from the synthesis: how you bind the technology and ways-to-serve together.

It is a puzzle: discussing technology, service partnership, customer, trust and commitment around the same table, within the same concept design. As a result, you are now ready to introduce the great innovation with superb service – that was designed with customer empathy.  

Steps Ahead has a tradition to facilitate co-creation processes by working across the roles – and with your customers.  Malila Consulting and Newborn Communications are our partners in designing service innovations. Contact us for sparring on innovation design. hannu.mattinen (at) stepsahead.fi.

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