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Innovation Begins with Customer Experience, Part 2

In my last post, I touched on why companies need to become more resilient during volatile times and innovate to avoid being displaced by new competitors. In this post, I’ll drill down into three ways they can achieve this goal.

Customer Journey Mapping

Companies are building groundbreaking customer experiences that are seamless and enjoyable from start to finish. A journey mapping session brings together leaders from different parts of an organization to walk through the entire customer experience. This process often reveals customer sentiment highs and lows that result from gaps and miscommunication that can go unnoticed because teams operate in silos. 

Doug Dietz, an MRI and CT machine designer at GE Healthcare, had a shocking revelation about customer experience when he visited a hospital to understand how the company’s machines were being used. His discussions with doctors and technicians went as expected, but what he didn’t foresee was the intense trepidation of a patient, a child. 

The sight of the large device and the loud banging noise scared the child, whom hospital staff had to sedate so that she would lie still for an accurate scan. Not only was this an unpleasant experience for the patient, but the high rate of sedation for children across the board incurred extra costs for the hospital, and the delayed process limited the number of patients that could be seen. 

With a new understanding of his customer, Dietz redesigned the process and created an experience that took children through a “camping adventure,”—the MRI room was decorated to resemble campgrounds, and children were given adventure backpacks when preparing for the “trip.” As a result, not only did children eagerly anticipate their new adventure, the number of children sedated for MRIs fell from 80% to under 27%, ultimately saving the hospital both time and money.

Personalized Experience

“There are 33 million different versions of Netflix,” Joris Evers, director of global communications for Netflix, told The New York Times. Netflix pays attention to metrics such as whether movies are watched to completion, whether users rewind, how long they’re in the app, where they navigate after finishing a show, and what users search for, giving the company a molecular view of its consumers’ behaviors. 

Based on the shows that I watch, the Netflix algorithm recommends to me shows about eating food, making food, craving food—anything food-related. Netflix taps the specific customer experience to increase engagement and strengthen customer loyalty.

When Netflix executives bid $100 million for the rights to House of Cards, beating HBO, AMC, and several other networks, they had an informed idea that it was going to be a big hit. According to The New York Times, the decision was guided by consumer data, which showed three things:

  1. Netflix users watched The Social Network, directed by David Fincher, to completion.
  2. The British version of House of Cards was popular on the service.
  3. Viewers who watched the British version also watched Kevin Spacey films and films directed by David Fincher.

These three data points together suggested that consumers were likely to enjoy the new political drama. Not only did Netflix listen and understand its users, but it also harnessed data analytics to deliver tailored content. 

To promote the show, Netflix showed 10 different personalized trailers to users depending on their viewing behavior, according to the Times. Kevin Spacey fans saw a trailer featuring the actor, customers who had watched films starring women saw a trailer featuring the actresses in the show, and fans of David Fincher saw a trailer with his distinctive style. House of Cards subsequently brought in 2 million new US subscribers and 1 million new subscribers from other countries, all of whom nearly paid back Netflix for the first two seasons of the show. 

What started as a DVD rental service has adapted and evolved over time to become one of the leading media streaming services. Netflix’s innovations not only redefined customer experience in the media industry but they have also redefined the future of the media industry.

Consistent Brand Interaction

To provide a winning, personalized customer experience, brands need to go to market with a united front. The journey through marketing, sales, and service is not a straight line with a clear beginning and an end. Rather, it should be an infinite loop where the customer keeps coming back, and whose path is paved by innovation capable of withstanding disruptive competition. 

A 2014 report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that buyers want the entire transaction to be simple, fast, and accurate across all channels, but executives still think in terms of individual platforms. This resistance to change creates market opportunities for newcomers and threatens the existence of incumbents. 

The same report found that less than a third of the companies surveyed track consumer behavior across multiple channels. With an abundance of consumer data available, organizations that can sort through the noise to find the customer voice have the key to providing a personalized brand experience. 

Through the above three examples, we can clearly see that innovation happens when you develop a customer-obsessed culture. Mapping out the customer experience, focusing on personalization, and creating consistent brand interactions across all touch points are good places to start making certain your business won’t be displaced by new competitors.  


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