Customer value, Innovation, Reinvention and Reconfiguration

Powerful Innovations on the Customer/Member Experience

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The lynchpin of value creation: the customer experience


When wondering about the next phase you will lead your organization to, do you automatically think of more and bigger–international expansion, dramatic membership growth, new initiatives or more aggressive marketing? Consider this:

Instead of quantitative, vertical growth, the focus today is on innovation, especially innovation on the customer experience. Not the “wonderful” experiences that you create– hosting parties, conferring awards or assigning them roles in governance–but the value your customers actually perceive and experience as a result of the outcomes you help them achieve.  And this — “the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship,”  as Wikipedia defines it—is what is meant by “customer experience.”


  Innovation or Disruption?

What kind of innovations will allow you to create a new basis for competitive advantage and get “unstuck?” Where and how will you most likely make the greatest impact? And what will success look like? 

In a LinkedIn article, Eric Dupuy differentiates between innovation and disruption. Disruption involves a change in the industry and market place. Uber and Airbnb, for example, disrupted the taxi and  accommodation industries, respectively. 

Innovators, on the other hand, may change the way products are designed or information is delivered but not their industries. The article cites iPod as an example. While iPod was a new products MP3 players were  available before iPod.

  • The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) (cited in my book Leading from the Outside-in), adopted a disruptive vision. It assumed a leadership role in the execution of a New Model of practice—the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH), and aimed at dramatically transforming the way family medicine was practiced and health care was delivered.
  • The Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, on the other hand, innovated by reinventing the requirements and processes of a credentialing examination.  

What type of innovation does your organization need? Where are your best opportunities for making an impact and receiving the maximum return on your investment?  






Examples of innovations on the customer experience  that reflect current trends 

 The trouble with true innovation and disruption is that it is hard to envision something that does not yet exist. This is why many associations, and other conventional service providers, equate customer value with the delivery of set menus of products–e.g. discounts, journas, formal educational programs and events.

TrendWatching sees a number of trends in 2016 that provide opportunities for innovation in customer experience. It cites examples of organizations that leveraged passive assets outside official product lines– relationships, competencies, technology platforms, customer insights, date etc.–into profitable and/or popular services or experiences that reflected these trends .

This is my take on the themes that emerged from these examples and others:  

  •  Improving and leveraging intelligence. Deep insights into customer preferences and behavior have unparalleled value today. How can associations extract, organize and leverage intelligence from the professionals and industries they have unique access to, and convert it into valuable intelligence for those who do business with them? This is the value Sermo, a physicians’ network, provides to its corporate members—companies that do business in healthcare.
  •  Eliminating inconveniences in seemingly small, casual experiences: For passengers who weren’t able to finish watching their movie during the flight, Air France supplied a code so that they could view the end at home on any connected device.

What are pet peeves and irritating inconveniences in your members’ daily experiences that you can eliminate?

  •  Providing purposeful micro forums and micro communities “With Brazil deep in crisis around the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, Ben & Jerry’s invited people to debate political issues in a São Paolo store in April 2016,” TrendWatching notes. It is not as if there were no lecture halls or public squares for people to convene but there is a thirst for unique experiences, non-traditional politicians, alternative channels for communication.

Technology platforms provide a powerful mechanism for convening and engaging people, especially young professionals, in unique ways.

According to Kate Sigety, young professionals “are tired of seeing the same type of content pop up on their newsfeeds.They crave meaningful and personalized engagement. In the search for authenticity, many young professionals are moving away from major news feeds and toward intimate micro-communities.”

  •  Enabling and guiding value-generating connections. “Launched in Kenya during March 2016, Tunga is an online social network that connects young African programmers with tech companies looking for help with software…The platform allows companies to list their requirements, inviting the African coders who match their needs to follow them and begin working together.”

Associations pride themselves for their “networking” opportunities. Yet these are mostly generic, passive and undifferentiated from the multitude of similar opportunities out there. The opportunity for association is to broker customized and purposeful connections and facilitate outcomes.  The greater opportunity is to leverage technology platforms and tools to increase effectiveness, scale and opportunities for innovation. 


Instead of looking for dramatic scope or quantity to lead to a next phase,  take a close look at how your members/customers experience value on a daily basis and how you can enhance it through innovation or disruption.  Making a big difference where your members actually live and the way they experience problems or successes will not only increase engagement and retention but will give you opportunities for innovations that could change your industries.