NOTA AICEX: sempre più spesso i clienti sono coinvolti dalle aziende nel disegno della Customer Experience. Del resto, chi meglio di loro può conoscerla? –
More and more, in my consulting work with companies and brands, we end up co-creating customer service and customer experience solutions together with the company’s actual customers. While co-creation is no substitute for improving the customer service provided directly by your staff, nor for innovative leadership efforts to improve the customer experience, it has a value that is growing quickly and should not be overlooked.
Even, as we’ll see below, in creating better solutions for adults suffering from incontinence.
Co-creating support solutions
Customer support is often now a co-creation in a way that my friend JD Peterson, formerly of Zendesk and now SVP of Marketing for Scripted.com, calls “unsourcing”: your customer support isn’t outsourced, or “insourced, it’s unsourced: for example, if your Macbook Pro screen is flickering [hold that hatemail, fellow fanboys: I know this is an unlikely scenario], do you call Apple? Maybe, but I’ll bet you first do a search online to find out what Macrumors and the kid in the basement next door or half a world away have to say about a solution. Similarly, when I recently spoke with Google on the improvements they’ve made to their Adwords support, they gave emphasis not just to how they have improved one to one support, but also how much emphasis they put on their crowdsourcing support tools.
Co-creating the actual customer experience
Crafting the actual customer experience can benefit from co-creation as well. The customer experience in companies such as Netflix (to use what is probably the classic example) is vastly improved by the way the choices that Netflix offers become more and more refined and more and more ideal for a particular customer thanks to an ideal feedback loop: Customer input from that particular customer and others, refinement by the company, and further input from customers on those refinements.
The co-creation approach has value because customers know better than you do what it’s like, and should be like, to be your customer.
(Yes, there are important exceptions to this last statement. Visionaries like Steve Jobs and Jony Ive see the future of what their customers want or will soon want better than even an actual customer can. If you’re a Jobs or an Ive, don’t ever—ever—lose track of your special vision and its importance in customer experience design.)
The focus group moves into the 21st century
A classic way customers are part of co-creation is the focus group. Focus groups are often maligned, but I’m not one to join in that chorus of derision. In my experience as a customer service consultant, as well as in my years of designing and refining products and services for my own businesses, I’ve found that a properly devised focus group can be an important part of co-creation strategy.
One company that has been taking the concept of a focus group to the next, more relationship-y level is Communispace, a self-described “consumer collaboration agency” that enables brands to build working partnerships with their customers, both online and offline. These customers-turned-brand-advisors share their ideas openly on an ongoing basis for months or even years, as opposed to point-in-time, one-off focus groups.
Customers co-creating new products…that actually get built
One of the ways these Communispace-facilitated relationships differ from traditional focus groups is that they are intended as mutually beneficial. The arrow goes in both directions, to paraphrase Carol Jones, Director of Insights & Intelligence for National Car Rental, a Communispace client. These diehard customers and power users have a realistic chance of seeing their ideas turned into new products and services and thus improving their own future experience with the brand.
In the case of National Car Rental, Communispace put together a community of frequent travelers to engage with the brand and create new products and innovations that meet their needs. The results that have already been implemented from this community include a service that lets renters avoid the counter and head straight to the lot to grab the car they want and go, and a mobile app solution, which gives customers a comprehensive “rental tracker” experience through the life of their car rental, including directions, inventory selection, reward status, account information, and, if needed, roadside assistance.
[These power users are] “the eyes and ears of our team,” National’s Jones told me. ”Our community members continuously visit our rental locations and come back to us with photos, videos and narratives about what they’ve seen and experienced. These frequent travelers really are an extension of our team.”
“Walk a mile in my diapers, buddy!”
The arrow going both directions means that the facilitators and power users are equally part of the process. My favorite example of this, by far: Communispace was recently facilitating a discussion with customers of adult incontinence products for a major personal brands company. The conversation was (pardon my inevitable pun) getting a bit too dry, too hypothetical for some of the users, one of whom suggested that the Communispace community facilitators try going a full day wearing adult diapers themselves. The team embraced the community’s request and spent a day in these undergarments – from the commute, to team meetings to after-work drinks. They reported back to the community, with members (customers) temporarily taking on the role of facilitators, engaging them in discussions about how it felt to wear adult diapers and what might make the product better.
Curious about the results of that adult incontinence experience? So am I. The company says the results cannot be disclosed, but will “likely inform the next generation of incontinence products.”
Well-informed diaper jokes aside, I doubt that many customer experience exercises are as eye-opening (and leg-crossing, I have to imagine) as this one has been.
AICEX Customer Experience Italian Association