Tag Archives: disruptive innovation

7 Ways to Radically Improve Customer Service


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What if …

1. Your customers booked customer service time through an online calendar, and reps contacted the customer at the scheduled time?

2. When customers opted to leave a message rather than wait on hold, they could choose a specific call back time (and actually get called back)?

3. You connected each product customers used to an analytical service at the company, so that reps could more quickly diagnose problems and offer customers relevant guidance?

4. Using such a service, you solved customer problems remotely, minimizing or eliminating the need for a call? Even better, you solved problems before customers were aware of them.

5. You could eliminate data silos, so that all customer information is instantly accessible to any rep?

6. Ratings and specialties of specific service reps were posted online, allowing customers to choose (and rate) who serves them? What if rep compensation was tied to these ratings?

7. Voicemail trees were posted online, and you allowed customers to click at a specific point in the tree to initiate the call, thus skipping the entire navigation process?

Of course this list could be much longer, but this gives you the basic idea. Now that you have a starting point and a roadmap, where can you disrupt your industry?

[Adapted from the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff, available now on Amazon.]

Three More Ways to Disrupt Your Industry


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Sensors make dumb products smart, gathering information from the environment that you can use to gain competitive advantage and to better serve your customers. Through sensors you can learn how customers actually use your products, and guide them in gaining greater benefits from them. For example, instead of just building a thermostat to control the heat in a building, you could add additional sensors to determine the way air circulates through the building and identify energy inefficiencies.

Sensors can detect minor problems in your products before they become major problems, and allow you to fix a problem before your customer is even aware of it. This could reduce your average response time for a problem from four hours down
to immediately.

Sensors can create additional revenue streams from existing products. An appliance company could add weight sensors in a refrigerator and create a new business automatically replenishing food items as soon as they run low. A B2B manufacturer could install sensors in its distributors’ warehouses and do the same.

2. Let customers make or assemble their own products.

The disruptive forces we write about in Smart Customers, Stupid Companies push each industry closer to personalization, because tailoring services for customers is just part of acting smart. The closer you move production to a customer, the greater the opportunities to personalize.

Lego toys have often been used as an example when explaining mass customization, since standard pieces can be combined in unique ways to create unique products. But even Lego realized some years ago that it could allow customers to design their own products online, then have the necessary piece shipped to them. The more modular you make the pieces that combine to create your products, the greater your ability to allow customers to combine individual parts in unique ways.

There’s a whole spectrum of possibilities. You can manufacture a product yourself, and then allow the customer to superficially customize it. You can make a product and design it so that customers customize it in a substantial manner; this describes perfectly how customers install apps on smartphones, tablets, and computers. The challenge is to conceive of ways to leapfrog your competitors and generally accepted industry standards.

At the same time, technologies such as 3D printing raise the increasingly real possibility of locating mini “manufacturing plants” at the customer’s location. You could literally have your customers make the entire product.

3.) Sell an ongoing service, not just a product.

In recent years, printer companies shifted their focus from selling printers to selling ink. But most customers still have to remember to buy more ink. What if printer companies sold printers that never ran out of ink, and charged on a per page basis?

Our not-so-secret wish is for a smartphone service that sells guaranteed phone service, rather than a phone that stops working eight months before your contract expires or the phone is “eligible for upgrade.”

Many people would gladly pay 30 cents a mile for car transportation, rather than have to buy a car for $35,000.

From your company’s viewpoint, selling a service locks in an ongoing relationship and revenue stream. In many industries, the manufacturer has no relationship with the end user and simply makes a sale every few years, at best.

This is an extremely vulnerable position in which to be, and turning products into ongoing services may offer significant benefit not only for your customers but also for your firm.

[Adapted from the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff, available now on Amazon.]

A Perfect Storm of Disruptive Innovation


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Smart customers want to talk to, access, interact with, and ask questions of your company. Right now. From wherever they may be.

We live in a world in which whether you are out in the woods, at a client’s business, or in your living room, you can connect information and processing power with people and devices that need it right here and right now.

This is a giant departure for everything that has come before in business, life, and the world. Today, unless there’s something wrong with our phones or computer, we are almost never without access to guidance, to others, to ideas, and to possibilities.

As the word “disruptive” suggests, this change is not happening in a steady and predictable way, but rather in a manner that most threatens established organizations, which are slower to change. The main question is pretty simple: Can your firm anticipate the impacts of these forces so that it gets smarter faster than competitors and customers?

These four forces are not operating in isolation…the opposite is true: They are building on each other. This creates countless opportunities – but also dramatically raises the bar for delivering “ideal” (much less truly differentiated) customer experiences:

▪ Social Influence means that the opinions and experiences of countless other people come between your firm and its customers.

▪ Pervasive Memory makes it inevitable that companies will begin to profitably leverage the data generated by the trillions of interactions and transactions made through digital devices.

▪ Digital Sensors expand exponentially the scope of actions, events, and behaviors firms can sense…and to which they can respond.

▪ The rise of the Physical Web has begun. Today, we are linking objects and locations in the real world like we do on the Web.

These forces will require every business to rethink, and in many cases reinvent, their business models. They are not unpredictable, but potent and unavoidable.

“What level of customer experience must we provide, and how will we do it?” becomes a life or death question for senior executives, and the time to answer it is now.

[Adapted from the book Smart Customers, Stupid Companies by Michael Hinshaw and Bruce Kasanoff, available now on Amazon.]