Find + Fix is not the Path to Customer Experience Innovation #forrforumOrganizations looking to innovate around customer experiences mostly don't know what customer experience is or how to achieve it, Kerry Bodine, VP and principal analyst at Forrester said during her Forrester Forum for Customer Experience West keynote.

Business Trajectory Must Align with Customer Needs

We know companies are very often looking to use customer experiences to differentiate themselves, but it's only through true innovation that this can happen, Bodine said from the conference stage. The problem is many companies think they are already doing this, when in fact they are still employing a find and fix approach. In fact, Forrester research revealed that 73% of companies plan to launch innovative experiences this year, Bodine said.

"If that's true, then we should see customer experience innovations gushing forth around us," she said.

62% of companies surveyed said they drive customer experience innovations through technology, but that sometimes ends up looking like a gimmick. Adding technology for technology's sake is not a great strategy, Bodine said. Instead, Forrester defines customer experience innovation as the creation of new customer experiences that drive differentiation and long term value.

The emphasis here is placed on new customer experiences. New customer experiences to the customers, and new customer experiences to the company. This point is doubly important because another strategy too often employed by companies is that they simply copy successful strategies they see around them, Bodine said.

In the end, companies end up limiting their potential because they don't take the time to ask their customers what they really want from them, she said.

Reframing Innovation

Innovation isn't copycat strategies or find and fix initiatives. Companies need to reframe innovation, ground it in their business model and infuse it with their brand, Bodine said. Her first example was the space race. The Soviet Union put a man in space before the US, and one of the keys to winning the space race was how to keep people alive in space.

NASA had been looking to the world of science fiction for ideas around space suits for the astronauts to wear. Instead of hard plastic or metal suits it had been testing, the final suites ended up being made of woven fabric. This innovation came from the ideas garnered from the world of women's underwear. Playtex, and its team of engineers and seamstresses ended up building NASA's space suits because they understood how garments fit people, and how to build a suit the astronauts could actually move around in. 

That kind of innovation today requires organizations to figure out how to align customer's needs with their business model. One example of this is the restaurant 2 Ovens, a company spun off from Italian restaurant Bertucci's. The east coast based chain is popular with older folks, and the company wanted to try and attract a younger crowd. It realized young people love pizza, but that it simply couldn't differentiate itself based on the food alone.

2 Ovens committed to in depth research on young people's dining habits, and decided to create its restaurants to be social gathering places that young people tend to favor. Because groups of young people tended to linger at their tables, however, the company also had to figure out how to get them to spend more money. One way to address that was to simply leave menus on the tables so people could buy items throughout their visit, for example.

To infuse innovation into the companies brand, to borrow Bodine's phrase, 2 Ovens designed its logo, pizza boxes and even coasters to reflect the idea of warm, social, inviting experiences. NASA and 2 Ovens are two cases that really show how much work companies need to put into their customer experiences. But it all starts with putting those customers' needs at the center of any customer experience initiative.