Five Ways to Engage Customers in Your Innovation Process

Woman looking at her phone.
Feedback has never been easier to collect, but that’s just the start.

Customers are the key stakeholders in your innovation process. Yet involving them can often be the most challenging part of building a better approach to their needs. Here are five ways to get them involved.

Set Goals

Start with determining how much data you need from your customers before you use it in your strategy, and how you’ll collect it. This is as much art as science; it’s rare to receive 100% on any metric involving customers. Some are too busy, some are satisfied and feel no need to engage, and so on. Similarly, each business is different. If you’ve got ten high-dollar customers you speak with constantly, your process will be different than one with an audience of millions. Ask yourself what will get the most feedback, and the feedback that you most need.

Keep Strategy Flexible

Any business knows their customers well, but they can often be surprised by what they find. It’ll be necessary, as you involve your customers, to keep any future strategy and goals flexible to meet those needs. A common scenario is that you’ll uncover a secondary market that you want to develop. This may change only a few things about your innovation strategy, or it may change your entire approach.

Similarly, your industry may change in the middle of your feedback; between 1980 and 2010, there were no fewer than four technological revolutions, after all, between the personal computer, the internet, the expansion of mobile phone service, and the arrival of the smartphone. Flexibility will be key to surprises from both ends of the spectrum.

Solicit Feedback

Feedback mechanisms are important well beyond just innovation; it’s how you find issues and detect trends. Asking customers what they think, what they want, how they’d rate your product, and what they want to change is often the first step. The main drawback to feedback, however, is that you often only get the two ends of the scale: Angry customers who are seeking redress, and delighted customers who are being catered to perfectly. Finding the middle is the next step.

Four star rating.
Stars are a good start, but only a start.

Read What They Say

Your customers talk about what they want and need in all sorts of ways if you listen. They leave comments on your social media posts, they make remarks to your customer service team, and they ask questions on your helpline. If your customer base is businesses, they’ll post blog entries and run corporate social media sharing links, discussing new jobs, and providing other information you can incorporate.

Be Transparent

Whether you simply take their feedback and incorporate it into the process, or actively collaborate on an innovation platform to develop their ideas step by step, customers should have insight into the decisions you make and why you’re making them. This is crucial not just to continue engagement and build customer loyalty, but also to communicate how the process works. Once your customers understand how you process ideas and what they need to get ideas out front, they can better understand how you work and provide more effective feedback.

To learn more about customer engagement, innovation process, and the feedback loop, contact us!

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