I have always liked Starbucks. You can’t beat a venti pumpkin spice latte on a crisp morning. Then, my affinity for their green and white Norse woodcut logo ramped up. I learned that Starbucks customers invented the delightful beverage I wait in line to get.
They also came up with the idea of splash sticks that keep hot coffee from spilling on my hand and cake pops I occasionally buy on a special day.
Customers are co-creating partners has been around forever.
The active inclusion of customers has bettered many a product, service, or solution. Remember the story of the giant 18 wheeler stuck in the overpass?
When the truck driver contacted headquarters, the person on the other end suggested getting someone with a jackhammer to chisel out concrete above the truck or a metal worker with a blow torch to remove the top of the truck.
But it was a little girl on a bicycle who had the solution—just let some of the air out of the truck tires.
We need ways to mine “little girl” innocent ingenuity and clever insight from our customers. The Craddock Terry Hotel, housed in a 1905 converted shoe factory in Lynchburg, VA, invites guests to “decorate your own tree” during the winter holidays with shoe-themed ornaments and a three-foot tree in guest rooms.
Vans Shoes enthusiasts have been able to design their own kicks since Vans first week of operation when the company’s founder told a customer to go to a fabric store and buy cloth in the brighter color she wanted and help him make her shoes.
Egg McMuffin was invented by Herb Peterson, a customer of McDonald’s. Breakfast is now a 5 billion dollar source of Mickey D’s bottom line.
Full Filling Customer Service Expectations: How Do We Get Customers To Co-create With Us?
Here are five ways to get you started.
- Ask dreamer questions—the inquiry focuses on customer hopes and aspirations, not just on their needs and expectations. “What is something no one in our industry is doing that could be really cool for us to try?”
- Don’t bet the farm; create a pilot. Inventions are successful based on many factors, not just ingenuity and brilliance. Test your market’s readiness for your collective creation.
- Listen to learn, never to judge. Listen to your customers like you are on a treasure hunt with no clue what might turn up. Don’t assume you know and are merely seeking confirmation.
- Half-baked creativity is better than unknown genius. Don’t expect customers to have fully developed, ready-to-launch ideas. Accept their rough stone and together polish it into the diamond it was meant to become.
- Affirm, appreciate and celebrate. No catalyst is more potent in the co-creation world than affirmation. Inclusion starts the innovation engine, appreciation keeps it fueled, and celebration ensures it will continue to run. Credit your customers and spotlight their contributions.
“Customer focus,” wrote Tom Peters in his book, Liberation Management, “still clutches the tired imagery of ‘us’ designing to attend to ‘them’; ‘us’ as active, ‘they’ as passive.’” It is a Copernicus-like view, with the customer revolving around the products, services, or solutions provider.
Look for ways to get your customers involved in creation.
You will not only be amazed at the fresh insights you get; you will ramp up the loyalty of customers who now have a vested interest in the products, services, and solutions they helped craft.
Check Out Chip Bell’s New Book
- What other strategies can businesses use to understand their customer better?
- How have you managed to fulfill your customer service expectations in your business?
- Is it possible to give customers exactly what they want?
A CX Global Media Contributor and a world-renowned authority on customer loyalty, partnership, and service innovation, he has written over 24 books 700 articles and blogs for business journals and magazines. He has appeared live on CNN, CNBC, CNN, Fox Business, Bloomberg TV, ABC, and his work has been featured in Fortune, Businessweek, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, CEO Magazine, and Entrepreneur. Global Gurus 2020 ranked him as the #3 keynote speaker in the world on customer service. He has been ranked in the top 3 for six straight years.