Customer experience (CX) has long stood at the heart of Nike’s success. As one of the world’s most recognised companies, the footwear giant prides itself not only on its products, marketing and brand ambassadors, but, a commitment to doing whatever it takes to ensure customers walk away from every interaction with a smile on their faces. Businesses don’t survive for more than 60 years, let alone reign over their competitors for just as long, without continually taking CX to the next level.
And so it was in 2018 when Nike opened its new flagship store in New York City. Amid the six-floor, 68,000-square-foot space, the company had set aside a special area for shoppers who wanted to avoid crowds, fitting rooms and check-outs. Known as ‘The Speed Shop’, it allowed them to order shoes online and then pop by the store to try them on. Using a special entrance, they could head straight to a locker with their name on it, unlock it using a smartphone and find their selection of shoes inside. After making their choice, they could then check out on their phone without having to stand in a line or engage with a member of staff.
As far as innovative ideas to improve customer experience go, they don’t come much better. ‘The Speed Shop’ was a unique service, offering something Nike’s competitors did not and reinforcing the brand’s reputation for identifying ways to add more value to its customers’ relationship with the business. Much has been written about the importance of customer experience in recent years but there is a growing awareness that embracing CX innovation is just as crucial to long-term success, as evidenced by Nike’s bid to ‘out-innovate’ its opposition.
While a study by renowned consulting firm McKinsey revealed 84% of business executives believe innovation is critical to their growth, the days of primarily focusing such innovation on products and services is over. Customer experience innovation is increasingly considered a more sustainable way for businesses to stand out from their competition, increase customer loyalty and ultimately create growth.
How do you innovate customer experience?
Let’s start by highlighting that innovating the customer experience is different from improving it. Rather than simply updating or changing an existing CX, innovation is a forward-thinking approach that requires businesses to explore and adopt new experiences.
For a great innovative customer experience case study, consider Airbnb. The online service did not seek to change the existing hotel industry or merely implement new practices. Instead, it created a whole new way for people to find accommodation. It looked at an existing customer experience and used innovation to add fresh opportunities, not dissimilar to how Uber upped the CX ante for rideshare customers and Nike’s Speed Shop found a unique solution for people who wanted a mix of online and physical shopping.
So, with that distinction made – it is about innovation, not improvement - here are five strategies that will help deliver great CX through innovation.
Focus on the customer
It goes without saying the customer needs to be central to any CX innovation. Understand their wants and needs. Search for their pain points. Study how they perceive your brand. Data analytics, surveys and social media feedback can provide great insights but always remember that CX innovation is about the customer but it should not be led by them. True innovation stems from offering solutions to problems that are yet to be voiced, which is why you should be vigilant about observing customer journeys with a view to introducing the likes of technology, solutions and new ways of doing business.
Be a CX-centric company
Customer experience innovation is a collective responsibility. While there is nothing wrong with appointing a person or individual department to drive the concept, it is essential to get buy-in across an entire organisation, starting with the leadership team. A company’s culture starts from the top and flows down, which is why executives and managers need to consider customers in all their decisions and focus on promoting innovation as a way to not only achieve success today but long into the future. Building a CX-first culture has paid off for organisations such as Amazon, Microsoft and Spotify and can do the same for all businesses no matter how big or small they are.
Break down barriers
Good CX is good CX regardless of where one’s staff are based. In a post-pandemic world where leaders are searching for ways to reduce costs while improving efficiencies and productivity, many businesses have opened their eyes to the benefits of outsourcing. This has created an environment where in-house staff are supported by highly qualified and hard-working colleagues outside traditional premises and customer experience can shine regardless of whether they are based onshore, offshore or in a hybrid working model. On a similar theme, partnering with an offshore outsourcing provider can be a direct step to CX innovation by providing a cost-effective means to boost staff numbers or allowing in-house employees to spend more time on CX innovation than on time-consuming and repetitive tasks.
Here is a statistic to send a shiver down the spine – 51% of customers claim they will never do business with a company again based on just one negative experience. On the flipside, it’s reassuring to know that 93% of consumers say they are more likely to be repeat customers of companies with remarkable service. Given the majority of positive or negative customer experiences relate to direct interactions with a business, it is essential to analyse every consumer touchpoint to not only identify pitfalls but find situations where innovation could lead to better CX. As the people who connect with them the most, frontline employees also often have the best insights into what customers want or need and therefore should be invited to share their own thoughts on potential innovations.
Look over the fence
Knowing customer touchpoints is one thing. Comparing them against a benchmark is another and the best benchmark is typically one’s competition. Whether they are soaring or faltering, take the time to consider what rival businesses are doing better or worse, any learnings you could take from them and how you could do things differently to stand out from the pack. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but innovation is a far better way to ensure your CX offering is an industry leader.
Customer experience innovation has rightly become a buzz term in the business world but it should not be a daunting concept. It simply requires individuals and teams to focus on ways to bolster the interactions that customers have with their organisations, which, in turn, enhances the relationship they have and keeps them coming back for more. Also, don’t forget the role that positive workplaces can play in fostering CX innovation. Happy staff tend to be more creative and productive, which are key attributes for inspiring innovation.
In the age of the connected consumer, there has been a dramatic increase in customer expectations for the service they receive. Explore this six-page guide to discover the best practice approach to customer service.