Written by Sonal Jaiswal | Evangelist, Customer Guru.
The Boston Consulting Group’s list of the 50 most innovative companies of 2015 was released a few weeks back. It is topped by Apple, followed by Google and Tesla Motors on the second and third position respectively. Just to be clear, this isn’t a consumer survey ranking. This ranking is compiled by surveying top executives in innovation. This year, around 1500 executives were surveyed as compared with 500 in 2005, and what’s most interesting to note is the rise in the importance of innovation in the last 10 years, since this survey started.
In 2015, 79% of respondents ranked innovation as either the top-most priority or a top-three priority at their company, the highest percentage since BCG began asking the question in 2005, when only 66% respondents ranked innovation as their top or among the three top priorities. It clearly shows that all the big boys are aggressively focusing on innovation.
But what does innovation really mean?
While many think innovation is linked with creating or inventing new products or services, it also means improving the existing processes, enhancing the current systems and cutting down the wastes thereby making an organisation and its employees more productive, effective and efficient.
For example, Apple has topped the list for the 10th time in a row. Isn’t it paradoxical that despite being No. 1 on the list of innovators, Apple has never really invented any product. Its largest selling products: iPod, iPhone and iPad, are improvised and enhanced versions of similar products that were already in the market but had not really caught up with customers. Here is where innovation really comes – it does not necessarily mean doing things first, it means to make or improvise products keeping the customer at the core.
Innovation focussed on improving the customer’s experience is the winning formula.
There is a strong correlation between the most innovative companies in BCG’s list and how customer centric those companies are. We believe there is a definite connect – the most innovative companies anticipate the customers’ needs and act accordingly; they are also loved the most by their customers!
What are some of the customer-centric innovations that we can learn from these companies?
Simplicity is the name of the game
Innovation doesn’t mean complicating things rather its purpose is to make things easier for customers. For example, every Apple product user would vouch for its simplicity and intuitiveness. Who’d forget the “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” quote by Steve Jobs himself. And this strategy has been Apple’s focus always! Its products are simple yet sophisticated, smooth yet effective. Despite all these intricacies, the products surprisingly require little maintenance.
But simplicity doesn’t end with just the products. Their marketing and branding is pretty simple too. No frills, no flashy billboards – plain, simple, effective ads that convey the right messages. Don’t believe me? Have a look at the billboard below.
Integrate everything seamlessly
Almost every company in BCG’s list focusses on delivering a seamless and integrated experience to its customers. Be it the beauty of handing off your call from a Mac to your iPhone or the swiftness of Tesla’s Supercharger Stations, the seamless experience is what gets the customers delighted. It is almost like the devices are dancing together – a perfectly coordinated, beautiful dance. Yes, you are in heaven!
Innovate with marketing too
Why is it that customers are willing to stand in queues all night long to get their hands on a just released Apple product? The products are undeniably awesome, but the fervour, in part is also because Apple has created the amazing strategy of making people believe that they need an Apple product. That is because Apple has marketed and branded its products as such. They were amongst the first to host a launch event for a consumer electronics product; an idea that was left to only the most exclusive cars and fashion products!
Empower and encourage employees to innovate
Understand that your employees are the first users of the product. Give them the freedom and empower them to think and create. Google employees, or Googlers as they like to be called, for example, are encouraged to spend 20 percent of their work time to pursue projects they are passionate about, even if it is outside their core job. This policy led to the creation of Google’s auto-complete system – Google Suggest, something that wooed the consumer so much so that it quickly became a feature that people missed in other search engines. And all of this because consumers would love it in the end!
In conclusion, we know that more than 50% to 60% of the ideas and innovations that companies take up do not even see the light of day, but the ones that do are those that were built with the customer in mind. It is ultimately, the customer experience enhancement that creates a winner out of an innovation.