It may be a challenge to read about 4 P’s of anything related to business and not think of marketing. James Rhodes was a scientist and researcher who conducted a great deal of research on creativity. He is the architect of the framework for the 4 P’s of creativity.
The four P’s are:
There is a symbiotic relationship between creativity and innovation; innovation is the useful application of creativity. This is important because creativity has a wide range of definitions. Most agree that innovation is the result of products and processes that are novel and useful. When I use the term creativity, I mean the creation of products or services that meet these criteria.
Gartner predicts that by 2018, more than 50% of organizations will redirect their investments to customer experience innovation. And, there is solid rationale for this trend; per the Forrester Customer Index, customer experience leaders gained 43% in performance compared to laggards who saw a 33.9% decline. That’s a significant spread.
Marketing trends for 2017 reflect an emphasis on customer-centric strategies that emphasize mobility, personalization, omni-channel access, and self-service to name a few. To deliver differentiating customer experiences executives realize there must be alignment across the organization, insight gleaned from data, and improved ROI metrics.
Creating and sustaining a differentiating customer experience requires a team effort. This framework will provide a solid foundation.
So how does an organization create a differentiating customer experience? I’ll briefly describe each of the 4 framework elements then provide a couple of tips for each one.
Employees and suppliers are the face of your brand. Leading customer experience brands work diligently to ensure alignment across all groups. Alignment requires a great deal of consistent two-way communications and clarity. Aligned organizations typically empower their internal stakeholders and empowered employees are more engaged. Studies show a correlation between engaged employees and profitable firms.
Most organizations are reasonably competent at gathering data and insight about their customers. In this new, rapidly changing, environment leading organizations make sure they collect insight directly from their customers.
- Provide multiple channels to give employees plenty of opportunity for sharing information and feedback with employees and suppliers. It’s important to keep everyone apprised.
- Establish a methodology for communicating directly with customers. Solicit input from frontline employees. You’ll want to be sure the contact is balanced and represents all of the buying journey.
Customer expectations are higher than ever, and they are constantly changing. These days companies have to constantly look for ways to improve the experience. Over the past few years many brands are turning to design thinking strategies to fine tune existing offerings and create new ones. The design thinking process relies on a series of experiments where companies create, then modify prototypes based on customer feedback. I talk more about the process here.
- Create cross-functional teams that are empowered to identify customer challenges and concerns by directly interacting with them. Provide resources so these teams can rapidly create, test and implement their prototype ideas. Once these teams gain traction consider scaling across the organization.
- Establish protocols that enable cross-functional teams to operate with minimal oversight and constraint. These protocols should facilitate experimentation and the sharing of learnings throughout the organization.
Product is the actual output of the creative process; it could be a physical product or a new service offering. It’s important to keep an open mind when thinking about the product. Google started with a narrow focus, helping consumers find what they searching for on the web, now they have a rather large product offering and they’re creating a driverless car.
Although you’ll need an open mind, new product and service innovations must be consistent with your brand promise. For example, Apple has been able to position themselves as a company that offers technology that is simple to use and improves lives. As a result, they innovated new products and services well beyond what one would expect from a computer company.
- Identify customer frustrations and complaints, then find solutions that will address these. You may want to consider using journey maps to help identify these challenges. Effective journey maps help capture customer emotions associated with their interactions with your brand. Here are some specific questions that will help you identify gaps to address.
- Explore new products and services that might complement or enhance the customer experience. Services that add convenience or simplify the buying process can significantly improve the customer experience.
The press is the creative environment. An organization’s culture is the bedrock of a creative culture. Creativity requires a safe environment because by its very nature there is a lot of trial and error. Creative organizations learn to celebrate failure as a necessary part of experimenting and learning. Obviously, these organizations don’t set out to fail, they just realize it’s a necessary part of the learning process. This is especially key since customers may not have an idea of what will be useful to them until they experience it.
- Celebrate by regularly sharing learnings with senior managers and the entire organization. The message should reward initiative and experimentation and reinforce a tolerance of failure.
- Make sure the physical environment supports creativity; meeting spaces with white boards are one example. Organizations are locating break facilities in areas that encourage random encounters with other colleagues.
Creating a differentiating customer experience
Differentiating customer experiences don’t happen by accident, they are designed. Some call these consumer-centric strategies because they typically utilize an outside-in approach. More than ever before customers have a wide array of choices and alternatives, so staying relevant requires significant effort and collaboration.
You will want to tailor an approach that is best suited for your business. If you don’t already have an existing process, then start small by organizing self-directed teams and let them tackle specific challenges.
What has worked for you?