We see BIG challenges and reimagine new solutions
March 31, 2017 | Dr. Robin Colson, Director of Research
Customers in all industries have more power today than ever. With immediate access to comparative information, global transport of goods and services, and 24-hour online access, consumers have the tools to become very selective. In turn, businesses must be innovative and pro-active in serving their customers. Quality and price are no longer enough to close the deal – the customer can always find it someplace else online better and cheaper; the difference must be in the overall experience the customer has throughout the shopping and purchase process. Companies that prioritize the customer experience report higher revenue, lower costs, and increased customer loyalty.
Creating an exceptional customer experience is about having a deep understanding of your customer. But this can be confusing as we transition from a manufacturing economy with location-bound customer transactions to an information and services economy that requires only a virtual customer presence. And this is true for all types of organizations – business, education, healthcare, government – there is not a type of business that does not have to fundamentally re-think how to create a stellar experience for an increasingly well-connected, well-informed, and virtual customer, student, patient, or citizen.
In practice, organizations can achieve a customer-centered focus through a methodology called design thinking. Design thinking is a powerful tool in the performance improvement toolkit. Design thinking employs a human-centered approach to problem analysis, solution development, and innovation using techniques such as customer observation, shadowing, interviews, and focus groups to experience a service or process from the customer perspective and gain a deep understanding of the customer’s wants, needs, and realities. The result is solutions and innovations developed around improving the customer experience rather than improving the characteristics or functionality of a product or service.
The Innovation Institute uses an expanded form of design thinking in both internal and outward-facing projects that support education, business, and the military. Using our proprietary design methodology, the IDEA Method, we initiate the design thinking process with deep customer-centered research, including not only the end user, but stakeholders and internal customers as well. Our belief is that performance does not happen in a vacuum, but in a larger ecosystem; understanding and engaging that ecosystem in the process is vital to the successful development and implementation of solutions and innovations.
We invite you to explore our website and learn more about our approach to finding and implementing systems-level solutions. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how our processes might help your organization get to know your customers better. So contact us today to schedule a conversation – it might surprise you what your customers really want.
 The Experience Initiative, 2015
Our colleagues at the UWF Innovation Institute often contribute to academic journals to share the work of the Institute and our partners. Dr. Robin Colson, Director, Research and Evaluation, recently contributed an article on accelerated learning to the EDUCAUSE Review. This article discusses the importance of acceleration for adult students and highlights the acceleration options offered by Complete Florida partner institutions.
I recently read, MOOCs, High Technology, & Higher Learning, by Robert Rhoads (2015). The book explains the cultural, social, and economic motivations that spurred the MOOC (Massive, Open, Online Course) movement and provides an overview of the various and diverse perspectives on the value and role of MOOCs (Rhoads, 2015) going on today. The book also provides a glimpse into the future of MOOCs.
Many innovation methods adopt, at least implicitly, a product mindset. Product thinking is core to a focus on the customer (or client, end user, or other term of choice for those your organization serves), whether we describe our intended outcome as a product, service, or experience.
One of the central tenets of design thinking - often used to drive innovation - is a focus on the client or customer. For example, the IDEA method we use at the UWF Innovation Institute places the customer at the center of all aspects of the design process, from identification of the problem space through exploration of alternatives and the evaluation of potential solutions.
Distance learning continues to grow rapidly in higher education and in corporate training environments. Colleges and universities continue to experience increasing online course enrollments, even in the face of declining overall campus enrollments