Oh crap. Someone’s innovating again.

It’s perhaps no surprise that marketers and brands are always trying to innovate. The lure of increased sales and increased profit, lower cost initiatives, diversification of product offerings to a wider range of customers, maintaining an edge over the competition, and advances in technology are all catalysts for innovation.

But while marketers seem to love to innovate – customers are often left frustrated, confused – even angry – when brand innovation takes precedence over basic expectations and service levels.

Think about the company or service you dread having to call…

Is it your cable or phone provider?

One of your credit card companies?

Perhaps a service repair for a home appliance?

Whatever it is, chances are you’re dreading it because it’s going to take you twenty minutes (if you’re lucky), just to get through to a real person who can actually help you with what you’re trying to do because…. ‘listen carefully as we’ve made some changes to our menu of choices available…’

In other words they’ve ‘innovated’ something and the most basic customer experience needs haven’t been thought through or adjusted to support that innovation.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for innovation – just not when the underlying customer experience has to suffer to implement it. So here are five basics that marketers really need to get right before pushing the button on innovation initiatives:

Answer the phone!

Yes, it really is that simple. How can brands expect customers to respond positively to your products or services if your company can’t connect you to a representative who can help you quickly. Automated messages that ramble on about ‘higher than usual call volume’ should be torched and company representatives trained and empowered to help with solutions – even if the customer ended up making the wrong choice on the phone menu.

Keep it simple

Whether it’s understanding your product or service offerings, contacting your company or defining pricing – keep your stuff simple. Nest is great at all this. After installing Nest security cameras in my home (all by myself, I might add), I looked into their thermostat offerings. In a heartbeat I was able to ascertain they weren’t compatible with my home’s electrical system and move on. Am I any less enthralled with Nest? Not by a long-shot – they didn’t make me trawl through pages of clap-trap and because I admire their honesty and simplicity, I’ll watch for other product innovation from them in future.

Make your core offering a priority

Innovation is all well and good, but always remember what got you here in the first place – you’re core offering. So whatever it is – do it magnificently – and don’t try and shove something else down a customer’s throat before answering their primary needs first. Rogers’ video on demand Shomi service (sorry guys – but it’s a good example) was pushed ad nauseam on their web site, phone system and billing at a time when I experiencing internet service issues. It was poorly placed, poorly timed and I found it infuriating. Brands can’t expect innovation to succeed at the expense of core services like that. (RIP Shomi.)

Keep your promises

If you say you’re going to do something – do it. When customers know you’re a company that keeps your word, the more receptive they’ll likely be to new product or innovation from you. Brands that say one thing and then do another will ultimately upset otherwise loyal customers and reduce appetite for additional services.

Make problem resolution a priority

And when things do go wrong, the faster you’re able to get out in front of issues and resolve them, the faster you’ll build trust, loyalty and receptiveness with your customers. If you’re trying to innovate, sell new stuff or make connecting with your brand difficult during a time of frustration, your window for future upsell and innovation rapidly decreases as time moves forward.

Yes, innovation can be a wonderful business invigorator, but it can be fraught with problems – even disaster – if basic customer needs and wants aren’t taken care of. Sometimes increased sales, improved profits – even an edge over your competition – don’t necessarily have to come from innovation. They can come from the doing the stuff you’re doing today – just by doing it right.

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STEPHAN ARGENT

Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

Photo: Martin Deutsch
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