Watch the short video and then read to learn about organizational change and added customer value.
Recently I disrupted my cat’s routine. He liked to drink water out of a plastic dish on the kitchen island. But the bowl kept getting moldy on the bottom surface – regardless of how frequently it was cleaned and washed. So, I began to test different water bowls and containers to see which he would use. (Cats are picky, you know.)
He stood before a choice of three different water bowls and looked confused. The one he was used to was gone. After several minutes, he finally chose an extra-large plastic cup for drinking water. Apparently, there is just enough room to drink without his whiskers getting in the way!
I think we are more often like my cat than the strong, decisive leaders we fancy ourselves. When faced with disruption, we cannot decide. We may even be paralyzed by the change or choices. As product innovation professionals, we must consider how our new products and services create disruption for our customers. Are recreating good changes with the intent of adding value? Or are we generating change for our customers it simply benefits us as an organization?
Of course, my cat cannot understand that I have changed his water bowl for his own good. If the water bowl is getting moldy – even with filtered water – after just a few hours, I don’t want him to drink water from it. Moldy water tastes bad and might make him sick. My organizational goal is to not have to clean up a mess while I keep him hydrated.
When we make organizational changes in a product or service, we need to introduce the new features to our customers with respect. Explain the change – small changes can be captured with quality improvement notes on your website for the curious. However, big changes must be explained to customers on social media, in retail packaging, and other marketing avenues. An organizational change is only beneficial to the firm if it also benefits the customer.
Changes Adding Customer Value
I know my cat was confused by the change of his water bowl. I am often confused by changes in apps on my phone or changes in features in software. I used to complete task like so and now my links don’t work or the menu items have changed. It costs me time to learn how to re-do a task that used to be automatic.
Certainly, as product innovation professionals, we make product changes that our customers want and desire. We should be routinely interviewing and observing customers that interact with our products and services. We also want to observe consumers using the products and services of our competitors. For example, I observed which water bowl my cat preferred. There were three competitors and one choice won.
Even when your customers request a specific product change, you must deliver training, education, and communication regarding the change. Often only a small fraction of customers serve as lead users to guide your firm in new product development (NPD). The majority of end-users will likely appreciate the new features but also might be surprised that they are available.
We all know that disruption happens – in markets, technologies, and product outcomes. Innovation is successful when we respond to disruption with thoughtful solutions and help our customers accept the changes. When we make an organizational change to deliver products and services differently, we must carefully explain the changes to our customers. We must define the short-term and long-term benefits that will accrue for the customer, removing the focus from the firm.
When we make changes to products and services that our customers request, we still must educate and communicate for the majority of our end-users. Too many phone apps are updated with a message of “bug fixes”. That is sloppy marketing and does not communicate value to the customer. Offering choices (which water bowl does my cat prefer?) can help consumers choose a product or features that benefits them the most. You may even offer various product features at different price points to garner initial feedback before committing to a full-blown new product launch.
Understand the Customer
Make sure you understand your customers before you disrupt their world through product and service changes. How do you know what customers want? Join me for the Creativity Master Class, starting 1 December, to learn tools and techniques to Identify customer needs. Register here.
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