can customer feedback alone drive innovation?

Good friend S.Swaminathan, CEO of Cequity Solutions draws attention to some takeaways from Gartner2008 CRM summit.  As Swami puts it, nothing earth shaking or new in there.  Analyst firms have always been predictable.

I’ve my comments under that post – particularly on (customer) feedback induced innovation processes – and explained why “enterprise insiders” have a larger role to play than customers in improving customer experience.  I had cited the Nokia example – its early customers have been pretty much content with the mobility feature offered by the wireless handset and had never asked for images, videos or data streams that were volunteered by the enterprise.  Had they tweaked the handsets on the basis of customer feedback, we would still be holding phones that looked more like a female sex toy (with its sprouty antenna) than the sexy multi-utility device that it is today.

Innovation has to be based on original and utilitarian insights that saturate a given or potential market need.  So the bets cannot be merely on customer (feedback) data because they have limitations.  They also suffer from weak sample sizes and visionary limitations of the customer.

A better metric I think has to come from a blend of customer and insider insight.  The enterprise insider (management, employees, suppliers, service providers besides customers) has the maximum touch points with the product/service than the customer.  While the insider looks up to the enterprise for his livelihood, the customer has wider options.  Humans do not mess with their livelihood and keep thinking about it a lot more than a customer would.  That deep and lasting connection and always-on thought process puts the insider in a position of significant advantage to draw insights.  Unfortunately insiders (other than R&D, Process or Marketing) have no canvas to jot it down, much less to get heard.

Don’t lose’em. Build your Business Intelligence around customer as well as enterprise insider.  You never know whose idea will fly !!!

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