Technology Takes a Back Seat in Customer Experience Innovation

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Customer Strategy
Customer Experience
At the Forrester Customer Experience Forum in New York this week, Kerry Bodine defined customer experience innovation as "the creation of new customer experiences that drive differentiation and long-term value." The word technology is not present, she explained, because it shouldn't be the focus.

Innovation is a hot buzzword of the time, but what does it really mean? According to Forrester's Kerry Bodine, 62 percent of companies drive innovation via technology. But she says that should be only part of the story.

At the Forrester Customer Experience Forum in New York last week, Bodine defined customer experience innovation as "the creation of new customer experiences that drive differentiation and long-term value." The word technology is not present, she explained, because it shouldn't be the focus. Instead, she discussed three areas that should be "triangulated" to achieve customer experience innovation:

1. Reframe innovation opportunities based on consumer needs
2. Ground innovations in your business model
3. Infuse innovation with the brand

She referred to restaurant chain Bertucci's as an example. In its quest to garner more Millennial customers, its original plan was to compete on the quality of the pizza. But the company quickly found out through consumer research that the definition of "good pizza" is too subjective. So Bertucci's decided instead to differentiate by the experience of sharing a meal with friends and family.
The concept included a new brand (2 Ovens), and a shift in strategy from flipping tables to increasing share of wallet. The menu includes carafes of wine and pitchers of beer for the table to share, as well as smaller items that are served as they come out of the oven, to encourage diners to spend more time (and money) per visit. The restaurant also leaves the menus on the table, a subtle but effective move to influence more spending per table.

We agree with Forrester's three-pronged approach, but we think it needs a fourth step - create a culture that's not afraid to fail. Encouraging a culture of risk and potential failure is critical to innovation, say Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D. in their book, Rules to Break and Laws to Follow: "Failing wisely. That's an important clue for setting up a climate of innovation, because every new idea has a high probability of failure, but without making the attempt, the small proportion of successes will never be discovered either."

In Bertucci's case, it bucked a standard food service policy and looked for applicants with visible piercings and tattoos. It's a risky move, but the company reasons that if employees look more like patrons, the patrons will identify with them and be more likely to return. 2 Ovens recently opened its first restaurant in Massachusetts, so it's too early to tell if the risk is yet worth the reward.

Bertucci's innovation is rooted in consumer needs that tie to its business model and is infused with the brand. There are some technological elements to the program as well, but they are secondary to its priority of creating an experience that can't be replicated.

What do you think? Do you agree with Forrester's definition of customer experience innovation? Are the four elements of innovation enough? Are we selling the role of technology too short? How are you innovating the customer experience at your company?

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