Get Your Customer to do the Innovating

A lot of CEOs invest in innovation by hiring a group of people who can imagine creative and out-of-the-box ideas to move the company forward. However, what they sometimes overlook is the fact that they can actually make their customers do the innovating.

How will you know how to talk to your customers, if you never talk to your customer? - Will Evans


Amazon is probably on top of every list of companies that do excellent customer centric innovation. A popular practice that its CEO Jeff Bezos does is to allocate a seat to “the most important person in the room – the customer.”Bezos makes sure that customers feel they are top priority and can reach out to Amazon. He even made his email address public so they can talk to him directly. They value their customers’ feedback so much that they develop products based on their customers’ desires instead of their team’s opinion.


Another one is Facebook. In the recent terrorist attack in Paris, Facebook has turned on Safety Check, a feature that lets users around the affected area to tell their family and friends that they are safe. This has received criticism as people questioned why this feature is available for Paris but not for Beirut, which was also attacked right before. Facebook took this feedback into account and broadened the reach of this feature. This action shows how Facebook uses customer feedback to improve and innovate their services.

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Last but not the least is Apple. The most visible innovation they made is through their retail stores, the Genius Bars. About 500 retail stores are available globally, making it extremely convenient for customers to inquire about their products, compared to other companies’ tech support done via phone. Face-to-face customer service has proven to convert customers and keep them loyal to their products and services.But even with this, Apple has been continually improving the Genius bar appointment system by allowing longer appointments with their staff.

Companies can adapt these customer-centric practices to see for themselves that innovation doesn’t have to come from scratch, but from the customers they are doing the innovation for.

Back in 2014 I wrote a Slide Deck that talks you through the basic steps of framing a customer problem as a hypothesis to test in the market, with real customers. Using Customer Development methods, a market will literally tell you:

  • What their problem is, and
  • How to solve it.

These two are the key ingredients to any successful product or service.

[slideshare id=38694491&doc=getyourcustomersdotheinnovating-140904081744-phpapp01]