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Secrets for working with customers to create products they will love
This podcast is getting a new name to better reflect our objective here—helping product managers become product masters. That new name is Product Masters Now.
You don’t need to do anything to keep listening, but I want you to know the name change is coming in a few weeks, and it will show in your podcast player not as The Everyday Innovator™ but as Product Masters Now.
You are in store for an enriching discussion with someone who has more experience delighting customers than most of us will ever see. You’ll learn a few important tools along with deepening your understanding of what it means to create products customers love.
Helping us with this is Chip R. Bell, who has been ranked for six years in a row as one of the top three keynote speakers in the world on customer service. Bell has appeared on multiple TV networks, and his work has been featured in several prominent publications.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:18] What is co-creation?
Co-creation is a partnership of creating collaboratively. I’ll be discussing the application of co-creation between a customer and an organization. The customer and the organization work together with equal license to make contributions to the product. Many organizations make products for the customer, but in co-creation, you’re making products with the customer. It’s a win-win partnership.
[3:47] How do you find co-creation partners?
Good co-creation partners have a need and the knowledge to contribute effectively. For example, a contributor to an electronic device needs to have knowledge about electronics. Choose a partner who can make a contribution in a way that’s unique and different from how you would normally approach the problem.
Another group of contributors are catalysts. For instance, I might bring in third graders who will ask questions that stimulate product development. They don’t have the expertise to create a product, but they will help us break out of our normal way of thinking. Talk to people like drivers or security guards in your company; they have a different viewpoint and can often bring intelligence you might otherwise miss. A friend of mine who manages a hotel got valuable insights from taxi drivers about what customers liked and disliked about the hotel.
[10:44] What are the five secrets for creating co-creation partnerships?
For many years I’ve worked in customer service innovation. In contrast to value-added innovation, customer service innovation is value-unique—it’s all about creating new experiences that your customers will want to tell someone about. I wanted to write another book about this topic, and I decided to focus on including the customer in the innovative process. I found five secrets that the cultures of the most innovative companies share. My book Inside Your Customer’s Imagination is about applying those secrets to a relationship with the customer. The customer’s imagination is a door that can only be opened from the inside. The question is what to do to get the customer to open the door and share their crazy, unique, or unusual insights.
Customer service innovation is about looking for opportunities to add something that delights the customer in an unexpected way. If you involve the customer in this, you get their cool ideas mixed in with your creation, and your customer will be loyal to a product they helped create.
[15:55] Curiosity that uncovers insight
Curiosity is approaching an inquiry without having any clue where it’s going. Normally, when people do customer interviews or focus groups, they are looking for confirmation of something they already expect. Product managers know better than to ask leading questions, but the expected answers are in their heads. Instead, what if you took a treasure-hunting approach? Invite the customer to be part of the treasure-hunting process, and be curious, not knowing where the process will take you.
For example, I worked with a pizza delivery company, and we were getting the same comments from customers again and again because we were focused on their needs and expectations. We switched to focusing on their hopes and aspirations. We asked dreamer questions, like “What’s something that no pizza company does that would be really cool?” Customers imagined having something useful or fun to do with the box—the inside of the lid could be a puzzle or coloring book. Several years later, the company added fun activities to their boxes. That insight only came from demonstrating real curiosity about the customer’s desires.
Make your customers feel valued by demonstrating that you are truly curious about their needs. If you can “be the customer,” you will see their world from a different angle. Experience what your customer experiences and demonstrate understanding in your relationship with them, and they will be more open to sharing the ideas you need.
[22:00] Grounding that promotes clear focus
In the creative process, rabbit holes are attractive, but great product companies are incredibly focused on the intersection between customers’ hopes and aspirations and the organization’s mission. I live on a golf course, and there’s one hole that’s separated from the tee by a lake. There are a lot of balls in the lake, but good golfers don’t pay any attention to the lake; they focus on the hole where they’re going. Likewise, organizations need to stay focused on what their mission is really about and what customers really want.
For example, the tenants of a high-rise office building were complaining that the elevators were too slow. The building contractor did a lot of studies, and their engineer said they just needed to build another elevator. But then they talked to tenants and found the issue was less about the elevators and more about people’s impatience as they waited for the elevators. The contractor installed mirrors around the elevator lobby and shaft so that people would be preoccupied with looking at themselves and not notice the wait. They found the solution by focusing on the customer’s true problem. Grounding gives you a sense of what you’re about and why you’re here and guides you to making decisions and pursuing ideas consistent with those goals.
[25:22] How can customer journey maps help us with grounding?
I invented customer journey maps. In the early 1980s, Ron Zemke and I were working at a large telephone company, and we needed to help management understand the customer’s experience with telephone repair. We met with the senior leader in telephone repair and drew a flip chart of what the customer goes through, but the senior leader didn’t believe it. We said we would take it to the customer to verify it. In the cycle of service, this is a moment of truth—when the customer interacts with your organization and can give a thumbs up or thumbs down. We drew a map and asked the customer, “Is this what you go through?” We kept asking, “And then what happened?” The senior leader realized he had no idea what the customers were going through. He started having executives go through the same process as the customer and realized why customers were so frustrated with phone repair.
It’s not about what you think. It’s about what the customer thinks. Your drawing of what you think is guaranteed to be wrong. The only way you can learn about the customer’s journey is to get them to talk you through it.
[29:35] Tell us more about moments of truth.
We use moment of truth impact analysis. We looked at a customer’s moment of truth, or one of their actions, and asked them, “What should happen here?” They list what should happen in a particular encounter. Then we ask, “What would be a detractor? What would be a delighter?” We found that the detractors weren’t just the opposites of the delighters; they were completely different. This analysis gives us a deeper understanding of the customer’s encounters with our organization and gives us insight into creative ways to enhance these moments.
For example, at Hampton Inn, customers have an encounter with coffee cups. If someone is travelling with their spouse, and they both get coffee, they didn’t have any way to tell their cups apart. Hampton Inn put drawings of lipstick and mustaches on their cups so they would be easy to tell apart. This is called anticipatory innovation; Hampton Inn predicted a problem that the customers might have. It’s not a big deal, but it would be nice for them to not have to worry about which cup is which. They came up with an innovative solution. It’s a small enhancement but fun and imaginative.
Action guide: Put the information Chip shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Check out Inside Your Customer’s Imagination on Amazon
- Visit Chip’s website
“We wait, starving for moments of high magic to inspire us, but life is full of common enchantment waiting for our alchemists eyes to notice.” – Jacob Nordby
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.