Successful businesses create feedback loops to continuously engage with their customers to both validate the customer problem and improve the customer experience. Valuable customer intelligence should be drawn from your sales teams via the CRM tool, post-sale customer surveys, customer research, such as focus groups and online questionnaires, social media, and in some cases, directly from the customer.
Greater customer engagement boosts customer loyalty and improves sales efficiency. Moreover, this forms the basis for Customer-Led Innovation which should be the backbone of your product development. According to an innovation specialist at Gartner,
“You cannot afford to stay still – business is a moving escalator. The world is moving around you – customer expectations are changing, competitors are always catching up and threatening to take away your business.”
Lab42 conducted a survey in 2015 which suggests that 84% of consumers want to buy from an innovative company*. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for innovative goods and services that solve problems and create value.
So Why Customer-Led Innovation?
Industries can innovate, design new initiatives and roll out new products – while still failing to give their customers any usable solutions. That’s because many companies innovate based on what they think is best for the market, but not what their customers actually need. They jump on industry trends without listening to what their customers are talking about, or only bring customers in at the product testing phase and not at the beginning of idea creation. Or they don’t innovate at all and rely on the status quo, not realizing that by ignoring customer needs and innovation, they’re becoming ripe for disruption.
If you want to build a company that puts customers first, here’s where to start:
- Listening: Find out what your customers are talking about, what problems they’re trying to solve, and what options they have available. Listening to their stories and gaining their insight can help shape your innovation.
- Partnership: Innovation starts with engaging your customers as partners. Solicit and implement their feedback, have them show you gaps in the industry, and give them great customer service.
- Flexibility: Focusing on solving customer problems may mean changing or abandoning your previously-held ideas. Being flexible and adaptable will help you better put the customer first.
- Culture: Innovation starts with a mission that is inherently customer-focused. Build customer interaction and partnership into the core of your company.