How to Succeed with Truly Customer-Centric Innovation

Fast moving, mobile world

Consumers worldwide have adopted smartphones, mobile devices and a variety of e-commerce and m-commerce solutions at record rates. APAC accounts for half of the world’s mobile users, with 1.7 billion unique mobile subscribers, so it comes as no surprise that mobile is driving customer engagement and interaction. The speed at which people have integrated these devices into their lives has sent banks, retailers and other organisations scrambling to develop new digital offerings. Whilst this general idea seems accurate and is absolutely essential for growth, there is a risk that the assumptions organisations have made in their innovation processes are flawed. To be truly successful, gaining adoption in this new digital world requires “customer delight and advocacy”, which can only be achieved by understanding precisely what customers need and delivering the solutions to meet those needs.

As a survival mechanism, most banks now offer mobile solutions to attract customers who want to check balances, make payments, transfer money and dispute transactions whilst on the go. But like most organisations, banks need to be thinking about the next wave of customers and what their demands will be. The new, digitally-savvy generations are looking for a more transparent, secure and efficient banking experience. To continually attract, retain and build a more loyal customer base and drive more incremental revenue, banks need not only to keep pace with their customers’ ever-changing needs, but also surpass their expectations.

Don’t make assumptions – think like your customers

Most banks say they listen to their customers – and they do listen – but how effective is this engagement in developing truly needs-based solutions? There’s so much at stake when an organisation decides to innovate. Will the new technology work? Will customers change their habits and adopt the technology? Will it be the tipping point to attracting new customers and creating new revenue streams? Oftentimes, organisations choose to deliver technology quickly by making costly assumptions about their customer’s needs and how best to meet them. Significant amounts of time, resources and money are spent launching products with lower adoption and usage rates than organisations expect. In the end, the next big thing can often turn into the next big disappointment.

The traditional linear approach to design and delivery isn’t always conducive to getting the best results. To successfully innovate, organisations really need to put customer’s needs and expectations at the centre of their thinking. It’s important to ensure that you continue to engage with the customer, allow the process to evolve, and then deliver the solution that best solves their need. Contactless payment via smart card, which was introduced in the early 1990s, is a good example of when technology advances superseded customer needs – lack of education among users and security concerns meant that customers were hesitant to use the technology. When the local transport operator in Hong Kong started using contactless ticketing in 1997, the market saw a surge in contactless payments. This proves that when there is a need for technology (i.e. faster payments while commuting), organisations will see customers changing their behaviour and flocking to innovation – therefore having a positive impact on revenue.

The bottom line: happy customers are good for business!

Satisfying customers should be at the core of any organisation or business, so developing a product using the empathy-based approach is key. Rather than building a product or implementing a service to then find out it has flaws – why not get it right the first time around? By undertaking in-depth studies into understanding your customers, you know up front why customers do things, what is important to them and what their real needs are. It drives a more focused product innovation strategy that ultimately removes time and cost from the process. It leads to innovation that customers will actually need, value and adopt.

An example of a customer-centric approach is First Data’s hands-on programme to connect with our clients in the field called “Into the Wild.” This allows our owner-associates from all levels to meet with our small business clients and get up close and personal on their own turf to learn first-hand what it takes to run their business.

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Inordinate amounts of time and resources are spent launching products and services with a lower success rate than desired. Organisations can avoid all those costly errors and disappointment by understanding their customers and building ideas around their needs. By using empathy – not assumptions – companies can create new innovations that really resonate. Since customers are the ones to adopt your innovation, product development needs to start with them. Don’t act with haste and make assumptions about what your customers want – take a disciplined customer-centric approach and win the race.

For more on customer-centric design, download our white paper “Cards and Payments: Innovation Designed Through Empathy”