Sure, the mechanics of your products matter. But how do you make your customers feel? Nail that question and you'll win them over for good.
You already know that improving existing products and dreaming up new ones is key to any innovation strategy. But if that's the extent of your efforts, you're missing a key element. Your customer experience deserves just as much of your creative juices.
Brian Klapper, president and founding partner of The Klapper Institute, offers this advice in the Harvard Business Review: "In your next ideation session, put the product or service on the backburner, and instead consider how you can improve each customer touch point."
Klapper says every interaction with your product should make customers feel something--like they just received a gift. Consider Apple products. They come in elegant, luxurious packaging. The plug-and-play technology gives the impression the products are easy to use, right out of the box.
It doesn't matter if you make knickknacks, food, or gadgets, your customers should feel happy as soon as they touch your product or receive your service.
Below, read three ways to innovate your customer experience:
Send the right message.
The most important moment is when customers receive your product. Is it easy to open the packaging? Is your packaging recyclable? What's the message you want customers to feel? Klapper points to the Kindle, which ships in an environmentally-friendly, but still functional, package.
Keep up the interaction.
You don't want customers to buy your product or service and then disappear. You want to create a community, an ongoing interaction--and that requires knowing what your customers are saying. Klapper says Gatorade's marketing team has a "Mission Control Center," which is a room full of monitors and dashboards used to track, analyze, and partake in social media conversations.
Make repairs and returns easy.
Apple's Genius Bar makes it easy for customers to come in and fix their broken iPhones, iPads, and computers. Zappos and Warby Parker both have a free return policy,whichhelps customers send back products that don't fit. Repairs and returns must be easy. If you're happy to take a customer's money, you must be happy to take their complaints. Don't make your customers stick with a product that's less than perfect. If you do, they won't come back.
WILL YAKOWICZ is a reporter at Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and politics at Patch.com, and his work has been published in Tablet Magazine and The Brooklyn Paper. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. @WillYakowicz