(PRWEB) August 11, 2005
Do you routinely encourage absurdity? Let people know they're safe to question the norm, suggest the unusual? Do you set aside time to work on your challenges and tap the brainpower of all your team members? Do you honor ideas? According to Customer Care CoachÂ® Publisher JoAnna Brandi, if youÂre not, you could be developing Âhardening of the categoriesÂ Â and in danger of losing your competitive edge.
Brandi explains, ÂHardening of the categories occurs in organizations where theyÂre inflexible, complacent and satisfied with the ordinary -- where they operate from preconceived notions and assumptions. These businesses get stuck on the way theyÂve always done things, and start focusing on what can't be done instead of whatÂs possible.
ÂThe result: Your service goes stale while competitors creating fresh new service innovations attract your best employees and precious customers. Companies that accept service innovation to be as critical as product innovation are setting themselves up to succeed for the long haul.Â
Why? Brandi says that a global, experience-based economy coupled with unprecedented, accelerated change are forcing companies to anticipate customersÂ needs by looking at them from all-new vantage points Â and then be flexible and brave enough to go the extra mile to be different. ÂCompanies have to think not only outside the box, but as if the box never existed in the first place,Â she says.
According to Brandi, innovative corporate cultures that can anticipate and meet customer needs are known for being curious, inquisitive, appreciative and playful. She explains that creativity grows out of a culture that is not afraid to be absurd or challenge the status quo, is willing to be wrong and that nurtures questioning Â and it thrives in a company thatÂs committed to continuous improvement and learning.
But such cultures donÂt spring up overnight, and she says they donÂt happen at all if managers donÂt nurture a culture where itÂs safe to be a little crazy. Brandi offers three tips to help managers heal hardening categories in their companies and start building creative, profitable corporate cultures:
1) Set aside time for creativity. Ideally, you want to do this quarterly, outside of the office, and you want to hire someone to facilitate the sessions so that the managers can fully participate. ÂLimber upÂ by brainstorming about silly things: See how many uses you can come up with for a brick, tea bag, or anything not related to work. When everyoneÂs warmed up, kick into high gear with crazy, no restrictions brainstorming on ways to improve your customer care. Remember the rules: All ideas are good ideas at this phase, and judgment, killer phrases (ÂitÂs not in the budgetÂ) and killer looks (armed crossed, mouth twisted, head shaking) are not allowed. YouÂre looking for quantity here. After lunch, sort through those ideas, combine them in different ways and start developing workable, doable plans.
2) Start an ÂIdea of the Month Club.Â Get everyone into the practice of questioning or looking at things differently, using questions like, ÂHow can I make this better? How can we improve the customer experience at this touch point? How can I create more value? How can I do my job better?Â Offer a monetary reward for the ideas that are selected for action. Or offer a small monetary reward for all the ideas and deliver it in cash. YouÂll be amazed at what people will come up with if you focus their attention on ÂHow can I make it better?Â and then reward them for their efforts. The first time you get an idea that saves the company thousands of dollars (and you will) youÂll know this kind of program pays for itself.
3) Invest in creativity. There are fabulous books, products, cards, games and activities out there to help you break out of ÂnormalÂ thinking patterns. Build a wonderful library of tools for your company. Google the word ÂcreativityÂ and have fun following the links wherever they take you. Find resources to support you.
ÂIf necessity is the mother of invention, IÂd guess the father is curiosity, absurdity, dissatisfaction, playfulness, consideration, imagination, or any number of qualities that arenÂt typically a part of standard business models,Â says Brandi. ÂIn most companies, marketing and research get to be creative while the rest of us wait to hear from them. LetÂs break out of the old molds and make Âcreative flowÂ a standard part of our organizational cultures!Â
To subscribe to BrandiÂs f#ee, bi-weekly newsletter, visit http://www.customercarecoach.com. To find out if your customer care is exquisite, take her QUIZ at http://www.customercarecoach.com/public/quiz.asp
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