Indeed, this is an area where small businesses frequently thrive and outpace larger, less agile organisations. They understand that coming up with new ideas and adapting to a changing marketplace is the only way to stay ahead of the competition – and they can be nimble enough to seize opportunities quickly.
But you need to make sure time is invested on developing new products and services – and that you’re focused on the right areas to move your business forward.
Have deep customer empathy
Understanding your customers’ needs and the biggest problems they are facing is key to determining how to make enhancements to your product or service. Clearing defining this is usually the hardest part, particularly as individual customer needs may vary.
Segmenting customers by age, occupation – whatever’s most relevant to your business – will help you identify patterns and narrow in on opportunities for improvement and innovation. Finding channels to listen and record feedback, as well as reviewing data around how customers are using the product, is step one.
The process of enhancing or finding new solutions can then begin.
Make innovation a mindset
Innovation should be happening regularly, across all levels of an organisation. It’s all very well ring-fencing time for brainstorming, but the best ideas are not always going to come up in a structured session.
This is why innovation needs to be a mindset across the business. One way to help drive this is to create blocks of uninterrupted time as a team. Too many meetings can be a distraction and get in the way of individuals and teams being able to think through customer problems and devise solutions.
Don’t get distracted by new technologies
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and voice or facial recognition is all exciting stuff, and it can be tempting to get caught up in the hype cycle. But new technologies should really only be a means to an end.
At Intuit, we always start with the customer problem and then consider how best we can solve it. For example, we have a laser focus on improving the lives of the self-employed and small business owners, and we identified an opportunity to enhance the way they stay on top of their finances.
Our new virtual assistant, QB Assistant, is a conversational chatbot that delivers instant answers, saving our customers time, and empowering them with the insights to make financial decisions with confidence. We didn’t hop on the chatbot bandwagon because it was trendy, but rather, because entrepreneurs on-the-go can benefit widely from real-time, instant access to their financial information.
Rapidly experiment if your solution is working
Once you have a solution in mind, and have bought that solution to life, the next step is to put it to the test as a beta, prototype or a live experiment. The faster you can get a solution in front of customers and hear their feedback, the faster you can refine it.
In fact, we recently completed our first Making Tax Digital (MTD) tax filing, providing our customers with a simple, fast solution to file taxes digitally. Customers participating in our beta will be able to share their feedback and improve the experience of filing MTD returns on QuickBooks Online. And, over time, more customers will be added to the beta programme.
Evaluating your approach to innovation through a customer-centric lens will help to ensure it has a genuine impact on your business. This is key to staying focused on customers and solving their problems in the best way.
Shaun Shirazian is head of product UK at Intuit QuickBooks.
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