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Five Ways to Focus Innovation on Customers

Monday, December 17, 2012

1. Take ownership of Innovation at the highest level

Innovation is about risk, and only executives can take the kinds of risks required for truly transformative innovations; that is, innovations that yield the highest ROI and form the strongest competitive advantage.

2. Identify the “North Star” that focuses innovation on real customer needs and inspires employees

Executives complain that ideas for innovation are plenty, but too often unfocused or even useless to customers. What matters most to customers AND the business? Customer executives need to clearly set the opportunity bar and make transparent the scale and source of growth opportunities.

3. Form powerful alliances with both early and late-stage internal innovators

If company innovators aren’t asking for the CCO’s input before launching an innovation, the innovation failure rate will be needlessly high and customers will suffer. CCOs should share ideas borne from countless hours listening to, measuring, and analyzing customer needs, wants, and desires.   

4. Create conduits to customers to enhance innovation efforts

The CCO is uniquely qualified to identify customers with whom the company has strong, stable relationships; whose needs are relevant to the innovations in development; and who are most likely to provide candid insights and direction for those innovations.

Forming such alliances (3) and subsequently facilitating such customer connections to ensure that customers are involved at the earliest stages (4) helps focus and refine the innovations and dramatically increases the likelihood of their successful launch and implementation.

5. Inject the Customer into the innovation processes, including the innovation reviews, stage gates, and funding decisions

It is tragic how frequently critical decisions are made in a customer vacuum. CCOs need to insist upon and help define customer-centric valuation metrics as innovation success criteria. The metrics and the levels of customer involvement should be dependent upon the investment and most especially upon the customer impact upon launch

In summary, any innovation strategy that does not include customer participation deserves to fail. But because CCOs are uniquely positioned to incorporate customers into the innovation process and to do so in the earliest stages, they can provide opportunities for resources to be used more wisely and efficiently and for customers to receive greater value faster and with fewer relationship-damaging dissatisfiers.  And ultimately, the company realizes a much higher ROI on its innovation efforts.

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Customer Centricity | Customer Insight