5 keys to focus on for excellent product and service innovation
1. Intimate customer knowledge
The paradoxical issue about product or service innovation is that it is not about us – it is about our customer. We are here for our customer and if we don’t know exactly how our customer is feeling towards our products and service in particular, and towards our industry in general, how are we going to offer something of value to that customer? After all, if we cannot meet a customer need, we will not be able to stay in business for long. But not just “knowing” but “intimately knowing”. This means we need to know the in’s and out’s of our customers’ psychographic makeup and how we can meet their needs better than any other.
2. Deep market knowledge
This means that we need to know what the market is doing. We have to be aware of what the competition is offering and then go one or two steps above them. We also need to know that is happening in the developmental space. This means that we should trawl the Internet for emerging trends, emerging technology, emerging customer shifts. These are important for us to position ourselves correctly for the future. While we cannot kill the current market, we also cannot forestall the future. In fact, we should hasten the future along our own path, and that means we need to develop our products and services for the longer-term future and not for the immediate future.
3. Unassailable value proposition
What if there was a product that can scan your body for any impending health issues and then adjust your behaviours so that you will avoid those issues. Would you want that? Of course you would, because theoretically, you could live forever with that! (Normal tissue degeneration notwithstanding, of course!) That is an unassailable value proposition that would put the whole healthcare industry in disarray! I don’t know if this exists, but what I am saying is that if our product held on to such a value proposition, we would not be in want for any customers! In fact, it leads us to the next issue…
4. Fully aligned value chain
If you cannot deliver what your customers need, you will also be in a big quandary. This means that you will need to align your suppliers, your service partners and your internal operations to make it happen. We will talk more about value chain innovation, but this is one key area that you need to be aware of to make sure that product and service innovation ascends to the fore.
5. Superlative warranty policy
This may seem weird. Many people don’t talk about service recovery because this implies that there is a problem with the value chain. Yet it does not mean that at all. One of the key things you want is to have a channel of feedback for your customers. If they cannot assuage their grievances with you privately, you can bet that they will take it public. And that would force you to take even more expensive recovery measures. Avoid that by giving the best warranty policy that you can think of. Go a couple of steps above what you can afford. Because if you cannot give your customers confidence in your product before consumption, they will stay away from that. Take a look at Zappos. They offer a “no-questions-asked” return policy on their shoes. Regardless of whether they were worn or not. Are you willing to do this? Can you rise above Zappos? Well, if you were in the shoes e-tailing business, you might just need to do that!
So there you are…the 5 things that you absolutely need to nail to get product and service innovation working for you. In our next installment, we will talk about value-chain innovation. This is an often-overlooked element of innovation and we can certainly gain a lot from it. Until then…happy innovating!
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