Small improvements into oblivion

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All humans experience different levels of challenges. Good innovation sees these challenges and find solutions. Brilliant innovations see what is invisible to others and creates a need nobody knew they had. I had absolutely no need for a cellphone in the early 90’s. I had no need for a tiny computer in my pocket. I remember we tried to get our school to invest in electrical typewriters. The 4 school computers however were left alone beneath their plastic dust covers. I will try to look at customer service with this story in mind.

The most obvious innovation in customer service is artificial intelligence. AI is designed to assist us with large amount of data, create automatic answers to most questions and even perform conversations with our customers. To create better and faster systems is the most travelled way to create a better service for most of us. Systems are improved to provide better answers to the questions we already are asking.

Numerous of brilliant people come up with great ideas to better customer service, to handle more customers and to earn more off the customers already closed. The common ground for most of these people is that the all mostly improve known factors. We save time, we improve known measurements, we use better technology to do the job we know so well better. We harness big data and know more about our customers than ever – but does this create happier customers? Or more important: More loyal customer?

I am well trained to find improvements in known areas; the massive question here is: Where is the innovation that creates what, nobody knew they needed? I was challenged on this exact problem a few days back by a man that knows how to ask the difficult questions. We discussed visions, big hairy goals. It is quite easy to state that we want to become the biggest player in the industry or the best place to work. The question that he threw at me was: “How will you change the world?” – That is quite a powerful question.

Incremental improvements or innovation?

Where do we draw the line between small incremental improvements and innovation? When will there be enough small steps that end up in something new? And is the next improvement the right move? I had excavators in my street last week, digging way for a new fiber cable. At the same time I read about 5g wireless mobile broadband. Will I think a fiber cable is just another item for archeologist to dig up a few years from now? How about tablet companies, cell phone companies and computer companies – when will their next improvement be the wrong move? While the rest of the business is creating a merged computer box that connects automatic to screens and keyboards at home, work or at a café. At what point did the CD-player providers focus on creating a better CD-player when some innovator created MP3. I notice pay terminal providers starting to support mobile payments, when payment methods might replace pay terminals and credit cards all together.

I do not know when this will happen to customer service, but I think it is important to ask this tricky question: “How will you change the world?” – Trains lost passenger traffic to planes, when will we try to improve customer service only to realize that the competition is flying?

So, how can we change the world of customer service?

oblivionHow do we know if we are improving into oblivion and what will change our world as we know it?

Imagine a company investing massive amounts of money in improving phone speech and sound quality, longer lasting battery life only to realize that an army of user around the world started to text, send pictures and eventually walking around with a computer in their pocket more powerful than those that got us to the moon.

The question is impossible to answer, but I think it is very important to keep asking: “How will we change the world?” At least to prevent us from ending up in a dark back ally all alone with wonderful improvements but the wrong idea.

I felt that it was hard to find a good round up for this article. It was on its way to become just another addition to the folder of unpublished rubbish when I decided to ask a friend a question: “How do you invent a need?” – He replied without hesitation: “by launching Tamagotchi” – I think this was a brilliant answer to a difficult question. I will leave you to think about how you can change your world.

Thank you for reading.

 

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1 Comment on "Small improvements into oblivion"

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