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Why Your Customers Should Be Central To Your Innovation Efforts

There’s a big mistake that a lot of companies make. It’s one that until a few years ago was common in my own organization, and it stems from a worthy goal: to boost innovation. The mistake is adopting what I call the “science fair” mentality: encouraging employees throughout the organization to innovate freely but without much, if any, direct contact with the very customers these innovations are intended for.

Unconstrained innovation sounds exciting, like the sort of thing startups do. But the truth is that successful startups actually don’t do that, because they know that innovation without a framework rarely leads to business success. It does lead to inventions that are impressive and creative, but they ultimately prove impractical or irrelevant for driving business growth.

How, then, can you get employees to innovate products and services that actually improve the performance of your business? The answer is by creating a structure that involves your customers, from an early stage, in your innovation efforts.

Focusing on the customer (for real)

It’s a rare company these days that doesn’t claim to put its customers first. It’s also a rare company that doesn’t do market research. But what is exceptional is a company with a framework to channel innovative energies so that they solve customer pain points and result in a commercial outcome the market will pay for.

Getting employees to innovate products and services that improve the performance of your business requires a structure that involves customers, from an early stage, in your innovation efforts.

Building this framework does not mean stifling creative energies under a heavy layer of bureaucracy. Rather, it means making sure that the innovation responds to customer needs and has the flexibility to evolve as you better understand those needs.

For instance, one of the projects I lead at PwC, the Global Innovation Challenge, could be a model for your organization. Invite employees from around your network, from all disciplines, to submit early-stage, technology-enabled business solutions. But require that before a team can enter the contest, it must include examples of marketplace interest — not just an explanation of how (and how soon) the project will meet specific client needs, but also feedback from potential or actual clients on a prototype or pilot.

Internal incubators are also ways you can create ongoing feedback loops with the marketplace. Multiple customer and third-party interviews and growing signs of market interest are required for a project to receive and keep funding from these groups. As you assess the customers’ feedback, the teams make changes in line with the customers’ needs — and if the market response isn’t promising, you pull the plug.

Four steps to make customers your innovation partners

No part of this process is improvised: Criteria and milestones are critical, including a framework that ensures that the customers are guiding the innovation. To take just one example, before PwC New Ventures, an internal software-as-a-service incubator, releases the first round of funding for a project, it needs to see at least 20 interviews with customers. Indeed, many projects have more than 100 interviews over the development period.

Here are some ideas to get that innovation-guiding framework started:

1. Get specific. It’s not enough to say “talk to customers” or “research the market.” Set specific criteria for the quantity and quality of customer interviews.

2. Set milestones. Even after you’ve made the decision to invest in an innovative project, continue to check not just technical progress, but also customer feedback, on a regular basis.

3. Offer expert guidance. Brilliant technical minds aren’t always brilliant at interacting with customers. Assign a person or team to train technical people on customer outreach, and to do the outreach directly when needed.

4. Set procedures to react. Ensure that the team has the time and the processes to reflect on market feedback and adjust design appropriately. Be ready, if the feedback is poor, to terminate the project and reallocate resources.

What happens when you listen

A team at PwC recently developed a new tool for franchise owners designed to quickly, easily, and digitally market their stores. The team planned to make this digital platform the core feature of a new product.

Following our framework — and our core principle of customer-driven innovation — PwC team members reached out to customers. Listening to the franchise owners, the team learned that one of their top priorities was to support their customers, the franchisees. So the team members went back to work, adding components that the owners could use to help franchisees reach their end-users. The resulting product that was introduced to the marketplace attempted to solve problems for our clients while enabling them to solve problems for their clients.

The result of listening with empathy and emotional intelligence is that you will be able to not just mostly fulfill a customer’s needs but truly fulfill them, which is usually the difference between that customer ultimately buying or not buying your product.

Another big benefit of really listening is stronger customer relationships. After frequent interactions with your design teams to ensure that the final product will meet your customers’ needs, these customers start to view your people as partners and friends. And frequently, customers discover needs — which your new product or service can meet — that they didn’t even know they had.

If your innovation efforts are to truly add value to your business, customer-centricity will have to be more than a motto. It will have to be a framework to turn your customers into your innovation partners. The insights they bring will make all the difference in ensuring that the product not only solves their problems, but also provides an exceptional experience they’ll keep coming back for.

Vicki Huff By: Vicki Huff

Source: Why your customers should be central to your innovation efforts

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The 10 Most Customer Focused Companies In Asia -Blake Morgan

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All over the world customers are king. But it’s especially true in Asia. Customers in Asia are unlike any others in the world. They tend to be more connected to their mobile devices and are eager to spend and connect with brands. Many of the most successful companies are those that are completely focused on their customers. Here are 10 of the most customer-focused companies in Asia. Customers are front and center at Singapore-based DBS Bank. The company has a Customer Experience Council, chaired by the CEO, which proactively anticipates and addresses customer needs……………

 

 

 

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Great customer support drives an amazing customer experience, especially when your support team moves beyond just reacting to problems and toward anticipating customers’ problems. When support agents are empowered to go above-and-beyond with customers, or have a help desk solution that makes it easy for them to upsell or cross-sell relevant services, they can create winning experiences that help you stand out from the competition……

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9 Awesome Contact Us Pages We Love – Jenna Tinney

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If someone was searching your site and wanted to get a hold of you, what would they see on your Contact Us page?

A phone number? An address and map? Nothing?

Well, hopefully it isn’t nothing! Marketers often spend so much time focusing on the design and content of the home page and service page that they neglect the Contact Us page.

However, the Contact Us page should be one of your most important pages.

Think about it. If someone clicked on your Contact Us page, then they are obviously interested in speaking with you! Therefore, your Contact Us page should be more than just a number and a generic email address.

Below are examples of some of our favorite Contact Us pages to help inspire you to update your own:

YETI

Yeti Contact Us Page

At Bluleadz, we love our YETI cups. You can find one on every employee’s desk (no joke). But what’s even better than YETI’s awesome drinkware is their kickass Contact Us page.

The top image is attention-grabbing when you get to the page, and they show the company’s personality and humor with the line, “While we’re good with smoke signals, there are simpler ways for us to get in touch…”

The page is clean and easy to read, and it includes the phone number, office info, and links for people to reach out via email and connect on social.

Their call-to-action (CTA) for frequently asked questions also provides the next step for those who want to search online for their answers.

Let’s Travel Somewhere

LTS Contact Us Page

Forget email. Send a postcard!

Or at least make your Contact Us page look like a postcard. The travel site, Let’s Travel Somewhere, kept their travel theme going by making a fantastic Contact Us page that looks like a postcard.

With a simple CTA button, you can send a message. However, on the right side of the design, instead of an address like most postcards, there are links to social sites to keep users engaged.

It’s not your typical Contact Us page look and feel, which is what makes it stand out.

Grammarly

Grammarly Contact Us Page

Keeping your Contact Us page simple and clean is always a good idea. After all, users are on the page because they want to contact you, so don’t confuse them with too much unnecessary info.

Grammarly does a great job demonstrating a clean page design for their users. Their contact info on the right is easy to see, and they also have CTAs to visit their helpdesk and/or to submit a request.

The simple, easy-to-use page also matches their overall brand. A good Contact Us page doesn’t need to be complicated.

Coca-Cola

Coca Cola Contact Us Page

It’s no surprise that a company like Coca-Cola would have a great Contact Us page.

With their easy-to-use chat box appearing as soon as you hit the page, it makes it easy to instantly type in your question.

The tabs at the top also send you right to the FAQs for those who want to find their answers online. As you scroll down, you see their general contact info, social icons, and even have a place to submit an idea to the company.

Moz

Moz Contact Us Page

You don’t need a flashy design to have a good about us page! Moz keeps it simple and to the point with this simplistic page.

They have their address and a CTA to go to their help center for additional assistance. Beneath that (not pictured) is a map of their location. Nothing more.

It’s a great example of how you don’t need to overwhelm your users, and the CTA allows them to move to the next step for what they need assistance with.

UberConference

UberConference Contact Us Page

We use UberConference a lot here at Bluleadz. And when we need to contact them for support, we don’t mind visiting their Contact us page.

With the phone number and email clearly displayed, it makes it easy to reach out. And, as if they couldn’t make it simpler, they have a form right there that you can use to submit a specific question and get it answered.

Wendy’s

Wendy's Contact Us Page

Wendy’s’ Contact Us page has a simple and clear message: Contact us at your convenience.

Not only is the page designed nicely, but they have a survey at the top that allows you to share your opinions. They also communicate that you can conveniently contact them by texting or sending a message with a simple form.

Achieve3000

Achieve3000 Contact Us Page

There are probably a variety of individuals visiting your website. Are they looking for sales? Do they need customer support?

Achieve3000 makes it easy for people visiting their site to find what they need with three targeted CTAs. By segmenting it like this, you can make it easy for everyone to contact the department that is right for them.

Bluleadz

Bluleadz Contact Us Page

Not that we want to toot our own horn, but we do love our Bluleadz Contact Us page.

We recently rebranded our website and the form on the page isn’t your average look; it has more of a Mad Libs look.

Under the form (not pictured), we have a map to our new office along with the address, phone number, and email. We also used this opportunity to include CTAs for guest blogging and joining the team, making it easy to learn about these common inquiries that we receive.

Simple Ways You Can Easily Improve Your Contact Us Page

If you don’t have the time to give your Contact Us page a complete makeover, then there are still some quick wins you can do that are easy to pull off.

A good Contact Us page should include at least some (if not all) of the following:

  • An explanation of why they should contact you
  • A short form for those who want to submit a question right then
  • A call to action for someone that isn’t ready to complete a form just yet
  • A link to your company’s social media accounts

By making it simple and easy for visitors to contact you, you’re creating an opportunity to increase your leads and help potential customers.

What are some of your favorite Contact Us pages? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How eBay is Leading The eCommerce Marketing Revolution – Michael Becker

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I look up at the clock and realize I’ve been surfing eBay, hypnotically engaged yet directionless for the past two hours. And I realize that what began as a quick search for a ball cap has turned into much more than that—a pleasantly surprising, almost-too-conveniently constructed browsing session of everything I love and want, or might want.

Thanks, eBay, for being the engine of online shopping that you are, keeping me from getting to sleep at a reasonable time tonight. Someone, something, I figured, has to be behind the curtain. And something surely is.

If it feels like e-commerce websites like eBay know you so well, that they seem to know exactly what you want, when you want it—almost biogenetically engineered to serve your every online shopping need—it’s because they’re built to do just that.

eBay’s “Customer DNA,” the company’s central data repository and customer relationship management (CRM) center, was engineered with one specific goal in mind—to provide more personal and relevant outbound marketing. That was the topic that Patrick Hildebrand, Director, eBay, and Sridhar Paidi, Sr. Product Manager, eBay, recently discussed at the Teradata 2014 Partners Conference & Expo in Nashville back in 2014.

The eBay Effect: Data Galore

eBay brings in yearly revenue upwards of $18 billion and employs more than 33,500 people globally. It is, without question, “e-normous”. In its beginning stages, eBay was actually known as an online auction site. But it’s evolved since that perception was established, back at the height of the Internet boom.

Now, most people recognize the brand as a place you can buy virtually anything, including a $400,000 plane…Woah. In fact, 80 percent of items sold are new products. It’s clear that eBay has capitalized big time on its e-commerce strategy. And how it did so is pretty fascinating.

More stats, first:

  • Each day, eBay generates 50 terabytes of new behavioral/transactional data
  • Every five minutes, a car or truck is bought via the mobile app in the U.S.
  • Every 12 seconds, a women’s handbag is bought via the mobile app in the U.S.
  • There have been 260 million downloads of eBay’s mobile app

Armed with what seems like almost too much data, eBay was tasked with understanding said data to gain individualized insights about its customers and their buying habits, characteristics, likes and preferences.

Though data was available, eBay was challenged to break down their data, dispersed by business units and across the data warehouse. It wasn’t long before a team of data scientists was introduced to focus strictly on customer data. Soon, it became clear that these data scientists were spending a lot of time just trying to find data, understand it and clean it before any actionable insights could be had. Mending this divide between IT’s capabilities and marketing’s goals (to use data and analytics to optimize every interaction with every customer) was in need of refinement.

Customer DNA

Enter “Customer DNA,”a single customer repository enabled by Teradata’s Enterprise Data Warehouse, the central system that collects all data. This allows for ultra-segmenting and targeting based on high value, medium value and low-value information.

Now, insights to drive business decisions and set strategy were able to be had. For example, eBay discovered that auction users—i.e. users who opted to “Bid” instead of “Buy It Now”—are more loyal than non-auction users.

It became clear that by cross-checking previously disparate data sets, new insights would follow. Results thus far have been staggering. Insights and models built from Customer DNA resulted in incremental sales in the first half of 2014.

“Customer DNA is becoming the backbone for eBay.” – Patrick Hildebrand, Director, eBay ß Text box

With enhanced data-driven marketing capabilities, eBay focused primarily on making its email marketing super-individualized and relevant. For example, “Daily Deals” were set up for select users—new deals based on search history sent every day. Pre-Customer DNA, these daily deals weren’t relevant or personalized. Now, reminders on “hot items” are sent to users, updating them on items they’re watching and the available inventory.

Emails tell recipients things like, “127 people watched this hot item in the last week. Only 8 left in stock!” They proved to be effective in generating more conversions than a traditional sale with no deadline to buy.

“Trending items” show which keywords are being searched the most, so if a customer has a high propensity in the category, they’ll get an email about the trending topic. First-time buyers also receive an email encouraging them to get involved in more than buying—selling (eBay has found that sellers are their most engaged customers).

Continuous Improvement

Is it perfect? No. I’ll sometimes receive an email for a product similar to what I like, but not exactly. For example, I search for a lot of basketball gear on eBay. However, this offer was irrelevant, as I don’t even know where my PS3 is:

ebay nba2k15 adAnd this one…as a guy looking for menswear, I’m unlikely to click on this:

ebay cynthia vincent adBut when it’s done right, striking the perfect balance of context and relevancy, made just for you – boy, it’s hard not to click:

ebay baseball hats adEven if it’s a little bit off, they’re using insights they’ve accurately collected about me to send me offers around stuff I love. eBay must constantly innovate and seek ways to accommodate its more than 150 million active buyers. They do this with an easy-to-use interface, quality protection and sales monitoring, safe transactional purchasing, customer service and – most importantly for me – relevant offers, discounts, and suggestions.

The Future of Online Shopping

I must confess, I do possess the ability to X-out at any time, of course, and eventually do. But there is always more; always a good offer on the sidebar. Before I know it, I have 23 tabs open, all showing items I might like, all with “similar items” that are also tempting my click.

As I look up, after those two-hour long browsing sessions on eBay, I realize something. I realize that the road I took had a few pit stops (and many tabs open on my desktop), but that this was a really good thing – chances are astronomically good that I found what I was looking for plus more due to the high level of relevancy and contextual offering that eBay has so beautifully mastered.

I realize that more and more customers like me are moving toward online shopping and that using technological capabilities and individualized insights is drastically transforming how brands are able to connect with the always-on customer. No longer do I run from store to store looking for my favorite pair of sneakers or that hat I need. It’s all at my fingertips.

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