Innovation and the customer
The customer defines what successful innovation is by its implementation and use. The issue is, they may not know what the solution or outcome looks like beforehand.
A problem with asking what the customer wants is that they may not know, or they have a preconceived solution in mind that may not be viable or effective, or it may be even undesirable or unsuitable. There is a problem of unlimited choice being a hindrance to decision-making. Be cautious of the “if money was no object…?” or “In a perfect world…?” questions as they can be paralysing due to the questions being unstructured and limitless.
Freedom in creativity and innovation is best defined within a discipline. An example could be this: a skilled dancer can move freely, fluidly and with unbounded creativity because of years of disciplined training and structured practice. A skilled person will know what boundaries to push though and what rules can be challenged. If I tried the same free expression through dance I would probably break something, most likely myself, I certainly would not enjoy the experience and I can guarantee it would not be a pretty sight.
Determining customer needs without prejudging the result or outcome will better define what a solution will look like. The needs assessment has to be done with a great deal of care and skill, without an agenda or preferred outcome in mind. Do not lead the customer into giving you the answer you want to hear.
If you apply the assessed needs with innovative processes then a solution that is beneficial to both the customer and the innovator is possible, but it may be entirely different to any preexisting solutions you or the customer may have started with.
This has been a bad year for us especially in the area of some of the purchases that we have made.
We are careful shoppers; we investigate before we spend our hard-earned money on almost everything. We use the principle of “buying the best you can with the resources you have at the time”. Yet, some of the bigger purchases we have made, we have needed to return because of manufacturing faults, part failures or damage, and these products returned were what would have been considered quality products. They have ranged from suits and shirts to cameras.
For the most part these goods have been replaced or repaired smoothly and quickly, with the exception of my camera that I am still waiting to be fixed under warranty 45 days later.
The main issues I have, is that these returned goods have all been items where there is an expectation of high quality and durability. It is a complete waste of my time to take a faulty/damaged product back to be fixed or replaced by a supplier. In the case of the camera there have been so many photo opportunities missed that can never happen again.
Great brands can be tarnished by poor quality products and poor after sales support.
Will I buy another product from a manufacturer who has supplied a faulty product?
Will I buy a product from a store that treats me, the customer, as the problem?
Now don’t get me wrong, the customer is NOT always right, but if the customer has used a product for a while and knows how something behaves normally, when something does go wrong the expert is the customer not the retailer or the manufacture, or at least they should be made to feel like that. To be told by the manufacturer the item is acting normally when you know it isn’t, demeans the customer, causing the trust in the entire brand and the retail outlet to be lost.
If the customer has a problem, you as a retailer/manufacturer have a problem, so listen to them carefully.
I understand that it is difficult to make sure that every product is perfect in every way, but if something does go wrong it should be rectified quickly. If retail/manufacturer staff attitude towards the customer is poor, blaming or just downright rude, it may be time to consider retraining the staff or closing the doors on your business as word of mouth reviews travel quickly, this is especially so in the age of social media.
Customer service is not just about “selling” it is about an ongoing relationship with your customer. Great after-sale service can make a bad experience a positive one for both the customer and the manufacturer. The solution all comes down to the attitude of the staff dealing with the customer directly and the manufacturer providing technical support.
There is no substitute or shortcuts to the following…
- Great products that people want (not what you want to sell them)
- Great quality control and quality assurance
- Qualified customer support team (knowledgeable, understanding and approachable)
- Great after-sales service and support
Get these simple steps right and you are well on your way to having happy customers.
The best action to take is to get quality right first time, check and check again before an item goes out the front door and if something does go wrong fix or replace it quickly.
Article also published on idealog