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Leading the innovation game: How managers can drive customer experience innovation

Without customers, a business is nothing. That’s why innovation is a critical part of Nuance’s business – helping companies continue to innovate to meet heightened consumer demands for superior customer experiences. But, how do you encourage and inspire innovation within the organization? It's not all about bean bags and ping pong tables. It takes a culture shift within a team by an open-minded leader, eager to see what their team creates. See how we foster innovation at Nuance to drive innovative ways to deliver better, more intuitive customer experiences.

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Helping companies drive new innovations to meet heightened consumer demands for superior customer experiences is critical.

Innovation. Such a simple word that can make or break a company. As Patrick Gray wrote in ZDNet recently, “the heart and soul of a company is creativity and innovation.” I would argue that the soul of the company is innovation but the heart belongs to the customers. Without customers, a business is nothing. That’s why innovation is a critical part of Nuance’s business – helping companies continue to innovate to meet heightened consumer demands for superior customer experiences.

We’ve talked before about how customer service has overtaken price and convenience as the greater influence on consumer buying decisions. And, that emphasis on service is continuing to increase – 87 percent of consumers report that a company’s customer service has a significant impact on their decision to do business with them.

It’s also no surprise that customer engagement has a profound effect on a company’s bottom line. Recent Gallup research found that “customers who are fully engaged represent an average 23 percent premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth. In stark contrast, actively disengaged customers represent a 13 percent discount in those same measures.”

As customer expectations continue to rise, innovation is more important than ever. But, how do you encourage and inspire customer experience innovation within the organization? It’s not all about bean bags and ping pong tables. It takes a culture shift within a team by an open-minded leader, eager to see what their team creates. With it comes failure, more failure, complete failure and maybe, just maybe, something innovative that will help a business get to their goal a little bit faster.

Here’s a few tips on how we drive innovation within our teams at Nuance:

  1. Know your people. What do they want? You can’t motivate everyone in the same way. You have to know the individual person. Knowing what makes them excited and then talking to them individually is key.
  2. Empower your team to take ownership. Make them part of the process. Get them to think “I am accountable and I own it.” And, foster a sense of pride in the work that they are doing.
  3. Give your team context. “Here’s where we are, here is where we were, here’s where we are going.” Remind them that it’s their job to continue to push it forward. Make sure your team knows its goals. For instance, a goal could be saving time for the call center or making consumers happier. Knowing the big goal is motivating on every level.
  4. Know when to push an idea up the chain and when to keep quiet. Sometimes you need to go into stealth mode or you may need to prove it to yourself with results before you push it out to the rest of the world. Figuring out this balance comes with experience.
  5. Find creative ways to push the market forward. This might be one of the hardest things to do as a manager. It is so much easier to just deliver on spec. The client wants a widget. We built a widget. The hard part is how we can make it better than what they asked for. How can we push the whole market forward? And, how can we be creative to fit it in without blowing up the system, the budget and using a ton of hours?
  6. Success is built on a mountain of failure, be brave.” When your team members fail, celebrate and ask “what are you going to do with your failure?” Thomas Edison failed more than 1,000 times when he attempted to invent the light bulb. Without his failures – and his drive to keep trying, I would be handwriting this blog post by candlelight!
  7. Not everyone is going to push for innovation. Everyone has a different skillset. Everyone has different motivations. You can find innovation in those motivations. Challenge your team to ask themselves what they can learn from each experience, even when innovation is not the focus.
  8. Be an advocate, not a roadblock. There is nothing more demotivating than when an innovation dies because of something structural and process-based. Find ways to help your team overcome the things out of their control that can keep an idea from production.
  9. Being busy is not an excuse for not innovating. You have the time. Structure your day. It gets down to the fundamentals of executing on your job. And once you get your job under control, then figure out how to innovate.
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