thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Customer Creativity

By on December 2, 2009

How do you generate higher, more positive energy in your relationships with customers? How can you deliver exciting, more creative ideas that your customers will love? Not through a mentality of serving. A service mentality is necessary, but it's passive. Creativity, on the other hand, is active and will open up exciting new territories and sources of energy.

So how can an organization move into a more creative space? In many of the workshops that I conduct, we devote time to creative customer ideas. Audience members are more ingenious than they give themselves credit for. Inevitably, a mental energy develops--a spark that motivates the audience when they come up with new ideas for their customers. The takeaway is that creativity will invigorate old ideas if you frame them around the customer.

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Customer-centric winners continually experiment with the way work gets done for and by their customers. One of the best ways to develop these skills is by establishing a fixed time for teams to generate new ideas. 3M's innovation culture is well-known. Corning's Sullivan Park R&D lab allowed employees to spend 10% of their time on "Friday afternoon experiments" to develop "slightly crazy ideas" in experimental glass. The success of the process became clear when "an entire genomics-technology business [was] built on an idea that was officially killed by the head of research but was pursued in Friday afternoon experiments." (Robert I. Sutton in the Harvard Business Review http://bit.ly/5hxTbD).

Creativity is never the primary activity of your company. But it's the activity that will make the biggest difference in your future if it's focused on the customer. Creativity helps overcome the narrowness in corporate thinking that customers cannot tolerate. Don't worry about the ROI at first. Invest in developing ideas that will create something better for your customers. Don't worry about failures. Inaction is the worst kind of failure.

There are paybacks, of course, for your business. Creativity generates its power at the practical level with new products and services that will make a difference for customers. It also has value in that it leads customers to form a positive impression of your organization and thus influences the long-term customer experience. (Donald Norman in Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things). Both internally and externally, creativity is enriching, energizing and profitable.

Discover new energy for your organization. There is no greater improvement that you can accomplish in the next twelve months than to commit to creativity that will benefit your customers. This commitment will establish creativity as a mainstream part of your culture. And in the process of creating new customer-centered ideas, you will create lots of loyal customers.

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