Innovation is a word that is used so often in product brochures it has become a cliché. The way I see it, invention is the creation of something entirely new, but innovation is taking various ingredients and mixing them in a new way.
Apple is a great case study as they keep on innovating. The smart phone existed before Apple created the iPhone, the MP3 music player existed before they created the iPod. If you can take what already exists, but make it a step change better than that’s a good way to define innovation.
But in services this is often a difficult subject to approach. Many suppliers lock down their service levels to the point that what is agreed and paid for is all that can ever be delivered – this doesn’t leave any room at all for people to innovate yet how many conferences have you attended where executives talk about innovative outsourcing?
I like to think that Teleperformance is a little different. I don’t need to shout about innovation myself when Gartner has published data saying that in our sector we are not only the best at delivery – all that day-to-day safe pair of hands work – but also the most innovative firm in the business.
There are several reasons for this. We have to innovate in customer service. It is a daily reality that the customers of our clients will be exploring a new channel or app or way of reaching out to brands. We need to stay one step ahead of what is taking place so we can help our clients deliver a great experience.
This means being flexible. What happens if we agree on a customer service contract and after a few months find that a lot of customer information requests are coming in via new channels – such as WhatsApp? Any company engaged in customer service today needs to be more open to change than ever before.
In addition, we don’t just talk about this; we have a Customer Experience Lab in Portugal that does nothing except exploring the future of customer service. They are endlessly analysing customer behaviour online and the data we can extract from the public Internet today is astounding.
Brands can find who is talking about them, their products, whether it’s negative or positive, and where the customers are located. The interaction with customers today is far more complex than just a post-purchase support call or complaint.
Regardless of what Teleperformance alone is doing with our CX Lab, I believe that customer service in general is where we will see the most business innovation over the next decade.
The customer relationship that was focused on the customer service team is merging into sales, marketing, operations and research. Companies are moving to a strategy of constant engagement with customers rather than loyalty programmes. This changing interaction with customers is reshaping entire industries – look at how fast retail is changing today.
The endless repetition of innovation, and similar buzzwords, may be a cliché for some, but anyone working on the customer experience knows that we are changing real businesses on a daily basis. This is where innovation is really happening.
Photo by Paul Hocksenar licensed under Creative Commons