Innovation and Customer Service in Business –

The two drivers of business, especially in our fast-paced, technologically savvy marketplace, are constant innovation and strong customer service. While innovation alone may improve a company’s reputation, and may even bring in significant profits, without a dedication to courteous, helpful customer service, the buyer will lose confidence. It doesn’t matter if that buyer is a typical consumer or another company looking to purchase new technology. Interpersonal savvy is necessary for making consistent sales and for navigating the marketplace. On the other hand, a company with excellent customer service but no innovation will eventually fall behind the competition. No matter how much a customer might enjoy interacting with you, if your products are outdated, you’ll eventually lose the business. With this in mind, companies everywhere strive to achieve both rapid innovation and excellent customer care.

From a managerial standpoint, innovation is a tricky beast. In order to innovate, employees must be both talented and motivated. Finding talented employees is simple: seek them out and make them an offer they can’t refuse. Getting those talented creative people to produce is another story. Many office environments are not conducive to creativity. There may be a lot of chatter, distracting the creative employee, dissolving focus. Perhaps there are fluorescent lights instead of windows. These environmental impediments can be corrected easily enough—separate the creatives from the rest of the work force and get some natural lighting—but often management is unaware of the environmental problem. Setting up a suggestion box for anonymous comments will provide creative workers with a safe, effective voice, and it will give management the information they need to make the appropriate changes. But what about more insidious impediments like low employee morale?

Low morale may be the number one roadblock to creativity. Perhaps employees are underpaid and overworked. Perhaps they don’t have medical benefits. If there are obvious problems with compensation, management can’t expect their employees to do their best work. This may seem self-explainatory but there are many companies out there unwilling to provide adequate compensation, no matter how much they see the value in innovation. Treat your employees well and they will do good work. It’s not always true, but good talented people get demoralized just like anyone else. Creative work is difficult and it deserves to be valued. If your company can’t afford to offer higher pay, consider offering more time off. Rested minds do their best work. You may also consider offering employees stake in the company, or reward incentives for reaching specific goals.

As for customer service, the key here is training, monitoring and customer feedback. Employees need to be taught how to talk to customers. It isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. It takes time to learn how to keep an even tone, control your temper and learn the products backwards and forwards. Offer training for new employees. Pair new hires with experienced customer service representatives for hands-on observation. It may also be helpful to provide a script, so that new employees don’t have to stammer for the right words. Let employees know that their calls will be monitored. Even if you don’t listen to the calls, employees will work harder to interact with customers appropriately. Always remind employees that they represent the company—their the company’s voice in their customer interactions.

By focusing on the two drivers of today’s business—innovation and customer service—small businesses can grow quickly as they seize every new opportunity and out-pace their competition.

References and Resources:

Workplace Management: Taiichi Ohno by Taiichi Ohno

Peter Scholtes: The Leader’s Handbook