It seems these days everyone’s in the business of innovation. Emerging and maturing technology such as AI, IoT and blockchain is fuelling the next iteration of the holy grail, true omnichannel customer experience. The truth is, most organisations are far from it.

So what business are you in, really? Drills, or holes? Hot water bottles, or warm beds? These are the problems your business solves – and if the customer could wave a magic wand, how could you do the job better? These are the seeds of innovation – and the opportunity to build something new and uniquely useful (the very definition of innovation).

Trouble is, diving deep into customers’ lives is hard work. It may even require an expert researcher or behaviourist. But the race is on – no one wants to be left behind or out-gunned by a faster, smarter thinking competitor. So we press on, shifting attention from immersing ourselves in the customer’s world (often confusing and contradictory) to all-singing all-dancing ‘solutions’ designed to solve problems that may not exist.

Everyone’s guilty of a little misdirected innovation, but contact centres are perhaps more deserving of being cut a little slack given their role as first responders to a wave of natively wired customers on a digital sugar-like binge of apps and instant attention.

With so many communication tools at their disposal, customer behaviours are as much about digital experimentation as they are a response to easier or faster ways to do things (which is a bit closer to the ‘problem’). It takes a deep understanding of unmet customer needs and a rigorous design process to nurture the kind of innovation that produces uniquely useful new things.

Our work with Pyrios client and energy provider Synergy shows what’s possible when innovation comes from the right place.

Common sense told us that customers expect convenience, especially when they want to pay for stuff. Perhaps that’s why bills arriving in the letterbox so often pile up on kitchen benches. And it’s not until the friendly reminder arrives that customers do the right thing.

Knowing that late payment is more a function of poor memory than maliciousness, offering more convenient forms of bill payment was key to minimising late payments. So we figured that if bills arrived via more convenient channels, such as email, with equally useful text message reminders, there’d be fewer late payments.

Building on Synergy’s CRM platform and outbound management systems, Pyrios developed an SMS application to automatically trigger SMS alerts reminding customers to pay their bills. The application uses CRM data to personalise messages according to amount owed, payment history, customer segments, and other criteria.

Text reminders triggered a 10% lift in email opt-in within months of being launched, cutting invoice printing and postage costs, reducing late and ‘forgotten’ payments, and ensuring fewer customers were hit with late payment penalties.

Innovation isn’t rocket science. In fact, it is by nature simple, obvious, and self-explanatory. In this case finding new uses for existing technology – email and sms messaging.

Technology is evolving faster than ever. And that’s why we established the Pyrios Innovation Hub – to go off script, dump the inch-thick requirements documents and statements of work, and help our clients explore the implications of technology for developing uniquely useful new experiences.

Managing customers is complex, which means innovation must be simple. And that’s what makes it so difficult – because new, useful improvements are an abstraction that must be engineered into complex systems and procedure.

Don’t lose sight of the customer, and know that the best ideas are usually new applications of existing technology.

How are your customer relationships changing, and how will your contact centre cope?  Contact Andrew McTeigue – Pyrios Innovation Hub lead and Chief Technology Innovation Officer – to kick start a programme of innovation.

Author: Andrew McTeigue

Chief Technology Innovation Officer at Pyrios.

Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.