Innovation is not a destination; instead, it is a journey, and successful companies know how to stay innovative year after year. By being on the cutting edge of your industry, you will always give your customers something fresh and new, and you will also keep your competitors on their toes.
1. Stay in the Know
The number one secret to innovation is never get left behind. To avoid this, you need to keep up with the latest advancements and changes in your industry. Stay current through trade publications and by keeping an eye on any new research in your field.
Part of staying in the know is finding out what your competitors are doing to keep current. See how they are innovating or changing the way they do business. Just because other companies are doing things differently doesn't mean you have to, but it is wise to know what else is out there.
Another way to stay in the know is to recognize when specific platforms are dying or dead. It is not wise to invest a lot of energy in a platform that isn't taking off. Google Plus is a prime example of a social network that provided little bang for the business buck. Read RIP Google+ to learn how and why this network went the way of the dodo.
2. Advance Customer Service
Ask any client of any company what they most value, and you are likely to find the answer is excellence in customer service. Create a culture of innovation when it comes to customer service, which means that you and your employees should always be asking how your business can improve customer interaction.
Some businesses do this by adding chat boxes that are accessible around the clock. Others encourage clients to reach out through social media. Some companies have even turned their customer service gurus into pseudo-celebrities who are famed for their client interaction techniques.
Whatever you decide, make sure that it makes the customers' lives easier, not more frustrating. Companies may offer phone trees and automated systems that leave customers angry and unsatisfied. Remember: Innovation needs to be a step forward.
3. Embrace Customer Feedback
A business that is dependent on customer satisfaction needs to be proactive in giving those clients what they want. Don't wait for customer complaints. Instead, reach out to repeat clients, new clients, and would-be clients. Ask them what they would like to see done differently or how your business can help them in new and exciting ways.
Some methods for customer feedback:
- Email surveys
- Snail mail comment cards
- Online polls
- Requests for feedback through social media
- Post-telephone surveys
Special Note: It is not enough to gather customer feedback. It would be best if you took the time to sift through some of the comments that come your way. You never know where you will find your next million-dollar idea.
4. Encourage Education
One of the most significant ways to inspire innovative thinking is to keep your employees' minds sharp. Allow them to learn and grow in all areas of their lives. Active brains are healthy brains, and healthy brains are excellent at creative thinking and problem-solving.
Education can come in many forms. Reach out to a local college or university to learn what options are open to businesses. Look for online learning opportunities. Sign employees up for retreats and seminars. Offer incentives for employees to earn certifications.
Regardless of how you choose to go about encouraging education, learning is always a good idea.
5. Seek Diversity in All Things
Diversity is one of those terms that has a variety of meanings. Diversity can apply to the skills that are represented by your employees, the product or service you offer, or the workplace environment itself. The best innovation comes from a diverse workforce, and even small businesses can benefit from this type of diversity.
Studies have shown that people from different backgrounds, when teamed together, reach the most creative solutions to problems, which is likely due to the different perspectives each person brings to the table.
Some of the most successful businesses have benefited from promoting diversity in a multitude of ways.
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