Thursday, July 11, 2013

Between Neutral Anxiety and Positive Anxiety? How do you Innovate for Awesomeness?

When it comes to Innovation, would you be cautiously optimistic for fear of slipping into academic fundamentalism? Did you not pay homage to the fundamentals during your education years?

I was on this cusp of reflecting the Monday 8 July, 2013 meeting of the CII Innovation forum. That is when a lucid, evocative and utilitarian perspective came in from Intuit’s Vijay Anand. Embedding emotional appeal within Lean process improvements has largely eluded the Indian IT services businesses, despite the rich opportunity potential to fill that experience economy market. Is it because Intuit is a product company that it has been relentlessly innovative for almost 30 years?

Well, this is not an advertorial for Intuit, but a stimulus from which I hold out a premise that may appear as symptoms of competitive myopia in service businesses. The Tofflerian Third Wave was to be about service economy proliferation or penetration with knowledge flows and momentous delights. What could be the deterrents that prevent providing customers with positive emotional experiences throughout the customer relationship journey?

Intuit’s example provides simple check-points, like the following:
1.       Do you deliver customer benefit?
2.       Do customers use your product / service for the benefit you claim to provide?
3.       Do customers recommend your brand proactively?

Delightful service or awesome client experiences could materialise if

1.       The customer experiences benefits that he or she ‘cares’ about
2.       The customer accomplishes his organisational or personal need with ease or reduced effort. Your offering will work with other stuff your client lives with.
3.       The customer demonstrates positivity through prompt use, showing or telling others of your offering or actually buying more of your capacity.
4.       The customer is able to justify his or her delight in your offering in advocating your capability, not just his or her intelligent investment in you

Sounds simple, and even reads ordinarily possible. However, the capacity to identify the benefit your customer cares about begins with your own emotional bandwidth. What latent need of the customer would you have discovered during the prospecting phase? How do you nudge your client to value your offering without breaking rapport?

Tough one, admittedly for engineers from India to design to a vision that provide you the Love Marks of the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Visualising the Customer’s benefit is also about addressing the riskiest assumption of your capability to serve your client. Innovation is the process where your leap of faith on this assumption will be the one on which you are willing to stretch your known capability. That is where you get leads into what the client is also willing to risk on in terms of behavior to meet your value in discovery mode.

A critical fallacy in this paradigm could be equating customer ‘advocacy’ with a commodity that has a shelf-life in terms of inventory and scale.  

Advocacy that arises from authentic customer delight is a value realization episode. The value is however impermanent.

In itself, the sentiment of advocacy has potential of perennial nature. Suspending the accretion of value could however, cast shadow over perceptions of your service capability. We all know how emotionally draining a service recovery could become. We also know, how desirous feelings of delight are.

In closing, as adult learner, I tie my observations with a knot to an idiom the illustrious Shombit Sengutpta led his firm with - Emotionality trumps Functionality, perhaps even Rationality! So, how would we render Authenticity? If you do not experience authenticity in the bonds between your own team workers, what chance does your customer stand of experiencing awesome service? Let me know. 

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