Making customers happy is good business, but many companies fail to connect the innovation process with increasing the happiness of their customers. The next time you call a meeting to come up with some new product ideas, try out one of these simple ideation exercises:
1. Think of a small (or big) way to make people happier.
I was at Star Wars last week and there were a LOT of happy people. And rightfully so. They were tremendously entertained at an IMAX 3D screening. As I watched the previews, I wondered whether I really wanted to see every one of those movies or whether I just wanted to live inside the IMAX theater. After further consideration, I think it was the latter. IMAX has found a way to differentiate itself from run of the mill movie theaters and I think their business is not really about better projection and sound technology, its about making people happier. For IMAX, each advance in technology that can bring greater pleasure to audiences could lead to an extra upcharge.
The exercise: Create a box with four quadrants. The vertical axis will be “difficulty to implement” and the horizontal axis will be “cost.” Now write a list of all the easy, hard, and crazy ways you could make your customers happier and plot them on the axes. Consider how to make people who aren’t your customers happy, too (for example, your customer’s children). Which of these will increase customer acquisition and retention? Could you charge extra for any of these services?
2. Help your customers share what makes them happy.
Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook have been successful because they let people share what makes them happy. In addition to sharing pictures and videos, consumers also like sharing their feedback and insights. In 2014, Domino’s in Australia introduced “Pizza Mogul,” an app that let consumers design their own pizzas, share them on social networks, and then get paid a commission every time someone clicked and ordered that pizza. In the first six months of the campaign, 55,000 “moguls” created 160,000 different pizzas. Your might want to consider a mechanism to help your customers express themselves.
The exercise: Look at your website and marketing materials. List all the ways you could make it easier for people to share what they like about your products and services. Discuss new ways to create shareable happy moments for your customers. Outline a contest that could encourage people to share their designs, feedback, and ideas with you.
3. Think of a way to help people relieve stress and anxiety.
I was at Baylor hospital recently for a family member who was undergoing surgery. The hospital had a variety of services and processes in place to reduce my anxiety, including free valet parking that eased my arrival, ample comfortable seating in the waiting area, free coffee and snacks, strong enough WiFi to watch streaming movies during the long down time, and regular patient updates to reduce my concerns. While I wasn’t the patient, the hospital recognized that I was an important part of equation and relieving my stress and anxiety would make me more likely to use and recommend them in the future. From the classroom to the workplace, more people are reporting higher levels of stress. While relieving stress and increasing happiness aren’t exactly the same thing, one can lead to the other. You should consider the ways you could relieve stress and anxiety for your customers.
The exercise: Write out your entire sales cycle on a timeline and identify each area your customer might experience stress before, during, and after the sale. Don’t forget about all the people associated with the customer that might feel stress, too. Now think about how you could go about reducing and relieving stress in all those situations.
The Bottom Line
Too many professionals lose sight of the human component of business and don’t spend enough time thinking about the people behind the transactions. Make people a little happier and you might find yourself a little bit wealthier.