Dan Coughlin

Article Summary:

Innovating your customer experience is a sure-fire way to increase your sales and profits.

Innovate the Customer Experience to Ignite Sales

As sales and profits continue to evaporate across corporate America, employees in every business must find ways to attract and retain customers. Innovation plays an even more critical role than ever before. Innovation is the process of identifying, combining, evaluating and implementing opportunities to add more value to customers.

A Golden Medium For Innovation: The Customer Experience
Every customer interaction provides extraordinary opportunities for innovation. Here are five steps for adding value to customers and increasing sales:

Dissect The Customer Experience
Every customer goes through a cycle of inquiring, evaluating, purchasing, experiencing and, usually, requesting additional information. Sometimes that cycle lasts a few minutes and sometimes several years. Every stage in the process provides a myriad of opportunities for improvement. Innovative customer service searches for ways to add value at each stage.

Ask Key Questions At Each Stage
Innovation always begins with a question. The answers to key questions create the foundation for innovative products and services. Here are a couple key questions:

At this stage in the sales cycle, what is the most important outcome for the customer?

At this stage, what can we do to improve this outcome?

Just by asking those two questions, you have identified opportunities for innovation.

Identify Key Customer Issues At Every Interval
Of course, knowing the outcome and getting there are two separate entities. Once you know the most important outcome at each stage, then clarify the issues that keep customers from achieving what they want. Identify if the issue is related to speed, access, clarity of information, friendliness, cleanliness, knowledge of front-line employee, quality of product and so on.

Develop Alternatives
For each stage, look at what currently happens, examine the key issues and the desired customer outcomes, and then ask yourself, "If we started from scratch, what could we do to deliver what the customer wants?" Sometimes out of habit organizations complicate matters for customers simply because they have always done things a certain way. Don't just try to make minor adjustments to your traditional methods. Examine the desired outcome and ask yourself how else you could get there.

Innovate In Detail
No detail is too small if it matters to the customer. Sometimes we think innovation means something big, technological and expensive. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Keep searching for little ways to add more value to customers and increase their chances of achieving what they want. Take each stage in their experience and keep breaking it down into minute detail. Examine each detail as an investigator examines a crime. Constantly ask yourself, "How does this affect the customer and what could we do to make it better?"

As a consultant and professional speaker, Dan Coughlin works with executives and entrepreneurs to accelerate their critical business outcomes. His clients include McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Marriott, Citigroup, St. Louis Cardinals, SBC Communications, Auxeris Therapeutics, Fru-Con, McCarthy Construction and more than 70 other organizations. He specializes in leadership, management, teamwork, innovation, branding and strategy. He has more than 100 free articles on his website, www.thecoughlin company.com.

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