Gaining New Perspectives

In 2012, I stood in line with great anticipation for the Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand movie – “The Guilt Trip”. I’m not sure if these actors are your cup of tea, but I enjoyed every angst-filled moment of this family road trip. What I didn’t anticipate was that this movie had a great lesson for business.

Seth Rogen’s character, Andy Brewster, is an organic chemist and inventor who is trying to get his environmentally-friendly cleaning solution “ScioClean” into major stores across the country. While his product ticks all the boxes – all purpose, easy to use, non-toxic, highly effective etc – Andy has no takers after multiple pitches.

Enter Andy’s mother, played by Barbra Streisand, who steps in with ideas of her own. Annoyed that his mother, who has no business or chemistry experience, thinks she has something to offer, Andy keeps her at arms-length. Until one day, out of sheer desperation, he takes one of her suggestions and drinks ScioClean on live TV – part of a home shopping segment – to prove it is safe for pets and children.

This is the tactic that finally piques the interest of consumers and retail giants alike, and gets Andy on the map. His product was sound and had what people were looking for, but he needed another perspective, different ideas for making it compelling to his market. That help came from an unusual place!

As Andy learned, be generous with the seats at your CX table. The more diverse your table, the more ideas you’ll generate, and the more innovation and better solutions you’ll have. All in less time too!

Everyday Innovation

With CX becoming the competitive battlefield and the bar always moving a little higher in delivering excellence, brands need to differentiate to win, and “everyday innovation” is one of the proven ways to succeed. Continuous generation and application of new ideas to everyday problems can have just as much business impact as a “Big I” innovation like groundbreaking new technologies, products or services.

At TELUS, one of our values is “we have the courage to innovate”. The TELUS Innovation Program (TIP) is a community that provides everyday problem solvers with the opportunity to work in teams and explore opportunities that drive innovation within our organization. With team members working together to be creative, strategic and allowing for big picture thinking, the entrepreneurship mindset is encouraged, which in turn leads to solutions that better serve our customers.

Cross-Functional Team

Years ago, I had the pleasure of working with our “TELUS Partner Solutions” team — the team providing what you would traditionally think of as “Wholesale” products and services. I enjoyed every single second of my time working with this high-energy team. One of the most impressive things to me was their cross-functional approach to reviewing customer feedback and action planning.

Their CX Team included the usual suspects: Sales, Marketing, Call Centre Care etc. But it was bigger than that. Their Contracts, Legal, Human Resources, and Finance teams to call out just a few, were also represented. They also invited external input, for example their Customer Insights partner (they were very clear that these people were not transactional “vendors” but true partners in their success!) to the table to ensure they were leveraging the external CX lens as well.

The experience working with this team was:

  • Inclusive: They sought input from a larger vs. smaller group of team members
  • Open: “Great! Tell me more” was the common response to new ideas
  • Hierarchy-free: Input was invited and expected from all team members and all levels
  • Collaborative: Team Members were encouraged to share ideas for challenges and opportunities outside their “official” area of expertise and solutions were typically the result of two or more ideas being combined.

You could say they were clearly proponents of “diversity of thought” before it was “cool”.

And their results? Outstanding.

  • They solved the more difficult CX challenges faster than other groups
  • They had the highest Customer Experience feedback results at TELUS
  • They were ahead of competitors

Our main CX KPI used a 100 point scale and their results hovered in the 80s!

We borrowed this approach to CX governance for our other Business segments and guess what? They got better too. Improvements in Customer Experience feedback metrics leapfrogged between 10 and 20 points on that same 100 point scale within the year. So we stuck with it.

Diversity Breeds New Ideas

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given to help spur new ideas and better problem solving was to reach out to those people with whom you typically butt heads. These are the people who are going to have ideas very different from your own, and THAT is going to get you further faster!

Some other ideas for getting more diverse thinking into your CX plans? Consider the following when looking for new people to work with. Always look to increase the variety of these at your table.

  • Thinking style – analytical, emotional, contingency planners, blue-sky idea builders, ROI modellers, skeptics etc.
  • Generation – Silent Generation, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z
  • Career stage – interns, fresh out of school, 5 year veterans, 10 year veterans, mid-career, near retirement, retired
  • Perspective – Consider people outside of your company and outside of your field – colleagues in other industries, family, neighbours and friends can often see things you have become blind to and/or question assumptions that might have made sense at one time but are now out of date

Working mainly on your own? Try some of these to get your everyday innovation mindset going:

  • Be your own devil’s advocate– write an opposing argument for each of your ideas
  • Let others take your ideas for a test drive – Book coffee and lunch meetings with people outside of your group and ask for their input — pros and cons — to your ideas
  • Flip your assumptions upside down – what if the opposite of your assumptions were true? A fantastic idea of this is “Diner en Blanc” (dine in white). What if there was an exclusive dining event where they didn’t serve food? “Diner en Blanc” – the most exclusive Manhattan dining event of the year – is built on this quirky reversal of traditional dining.

So, don’t be so exclusive. Be generous with the seats at your CX table. Amp up your idea generation and everyday innovation. Extend your reach, multiply your impact, and build a culture that enables your CX vision instead of eating it for breakfast.

Krista Sheridan is a Customer Experience veteran with a passion for helping people better understand how they are connected to the customer, the value of the work they do each day, and how to drive actions that engage customers and deliver strong business results. Krista’s current focus at TELUS is Leadership Development for a Customer First Culture.

Krista Sheridan

Sr. Advisor, People & Culture, TELUS

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