Your customers want to innovate with you. And often your employees do, too.
The challenge comes in finding ways to help your customers and team members innovate around the customer experience in ways that don’t require massive investments of time and money. Innovation doesn’t have to be impossible! Make it fun and fast, and learn from the results.
What are a few ways you can encourage those ideas in your employees’ heads to get out into the open? As always, start with the why and then work through the how!
1. Encourage innovation by examining the experience on a regular basis.
Don’t just discuss what’s wrong with how a process or rule mucks up the experience for a customer, that’s called complaining!
Instead, ask your call center reps and customer service pros what they suggest to make it better. They have probably heard some great ideas from customers, like “It would be great if you guys would email me more than a day in advance about a planned closure…” or “I wish you would offer later hours for service!”
These are not just gripes, they are ideas on how to innovate. Ask your CSR’s and others to track these off-handed remarks and encourage examining the processes that prevent these customer wishes from happening.
2. Have a place to track ideas, suggestions or things that make you go hmmm….
An employee suggestion box in the break room is a simple version of a place to record great ideas. But encouraging ideas and discussions on intranets or via tools like Slack can really get the ball rolling.
If one employee has an idea, and another supports it with another idea, and then the leaders see how to make it happen, that’s innovation around the experience. Don’t let those water cooler discussions slip by without recording those kernels of ideas that can lead to bigger and better things.
3. Create specific feedback times during regular staff meetings.
Too many meetings start with “don’t forget” items which are really just reminders to follow the rules. “Don’t forget to complete your time tracking by the end of the week!” “Don’t forget to submit your expenses by the end of the month.” These may be necessary reminders, but they may be red flags for processes that aren’t working to serve your customers.
If a CSR has to make a decision between following up on an important customer issue or completing the necessary steps to get paid, any human being would pick choice two. The reason those other processes are not being completed may be because they interfere with really serving the customer.
Ask your team how you can make it easier, and look for ways to automate those pesky but important items on the to-do lists. And find ways to invite these discussions during the regularly-planned events.
One leader I knew used to end every group meeting with “your two cents” as the last agenda item. This was a chance for any employee to bring up ideas around how to be more focused on the customer. The rules were that the ideas had to be submitted in advance so they could avoid repetition, but these ideas were tracked on a regular basis and many employee suggestions were implemented quickly.
Innovation is really about ideas.
You need lots of ideas to innovate, and your frontline employees have lots of them! Help them innovate to serve them, and your customers even better.