​What innovation really means in customer experience

Three brand CX leaders explore what it takes to leverage innovation for a better customer experience

A recent Forrester study found two-thirds of customer experience professionals believe innovation is a key method of achieving business growth.

During a panel session at the Forrester CX Marketing event in Sydney, several CX leaders explored how innovation is now playing an integral part in their daily roles and activities.

“Every second of my day is about innovation,” Kimberly-Clark Professional’s Asia-Pacific integrated commercial program manager, Lauraine Worthington, said. “Whether it’s focused internally, or externally for our customers, my job is to drive customer experience and product innovation. Every element of our business is relying on that to occur for us to be the market leader. So I’m 100 per cent committed to innovation in everything I do.”

In a B2B world, Worthington admits budgets are small, but innovation takes a large portion of that.

“Because that is how we differentiate ourselves in the marketplace, we make it a priority in our budget,” she added.

IAG’s general manager of customer experience and marketing, Jill Baptist, said the innovation team, digital labs, customer labs and people across the organisation are always coming up with ideas.

“The challenge is coping with demand and prioritising,” she said. “It’s all about supporting and embedding new ideas to ensure our investment in innovation pays off.

“We believe it’s important to support innovation everywhere, especially when a business is going through rapid changes. But at the same time, one of our challenges has been consensus in decision making, which comes as a result of managing risk. We’re focusing more on being agile as a culture and having quite tough conversations to make more focused decisions.”

SingPost Commerce’s VP of global strategy, Timothy Lee doesn’t look at what others are doing for inspiration, but what others are not doing.

“I tend to look for the opposite,” he said. “Take the Ubers of the world: They are looking to fill that missing piece. This industry will look vastly different 20 years from now and it’s my job to figure out how to adapt to change.”

At SingPost Commerce, Lee’s part of the organisation has adopted more of a startup mindset, complete with a separate building, equity as the main driver for compensation and goals to get additional funding from the company’s corporate parent.

“The other part of our organisation that does CX is our main business and that team works closely with Forrester and a few other trusted partners in terms of customer journey mapping, so it’s really balanced it out,” he explained. “Structurally, we felt this way we could give autonomy to the startup group in order to make decisions quickly.”

Innovation versus improvement

One of the questions raised during the session was whether innovation is disruptive. For Baptist, there’s a difference between innovation and improvement, but it’s all about coming up with great concepts to enhance the customer experience.

“For instance in insurance, we have vast amounts of information and data available, and recently we made some data available to customers looking at insurance within their areas, which they found very useful and we had some great feedback as a result,” she said.

Collaboration with customers is also key when coming up with innovative concepts, Baptist said.

“The whole concept behind our recent initiative wasn’t to hold onto all our information and have some sort of power, but to share that information with our customers in an altruistic and collaborative way,” she said. “We’re also big fans of design thinking and see it as a core capability.”

At Kimberley-Clark, product innovation is at the top of the agenda, Worthington said.

“We understand our customer needs and we absolutely design for them,” she said. “Where we’re going now with customer experience is commercial innovation, talking to them and really doing a value exchange. This enables customers to be more successful, which allows us to be more successful. That’s where we’re trying to invest our energy.”

But it’s also important to align your ideas with your business, otherwise you could get too distracted and lose focus, Worthington said.

“We also have a few to help us align with strategic business planning and customer journey mapping,” she said. “I think we have more tools in our business than we know what to do with and we don’t always have the right people to use them. So while we know where we want to go, we sometimes don’t get there fast enough.”

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