How can you increase the distinctive character of your products?
Monday 1 February 2021
Do you want to distinguish yourself with your products by connecting them to the internet? Do you want to innovate in technology to beat your competitors? Do you really think technology is the solution to all your business problems?
At least that's what I hear in most conversations with entrepreneurs. Technology is the driver for them to innovate. But why does it so often go wrong?
Technology: a blessing or a curse?
Technology is developing very fast - even faster as a result of the pandemic, but humans are not developing that fast. I myself have built up some antipathy against the endless amount of functionalities of all the devices in my house and my car. The technology is intended for greater user comfort, but the biggest limiting factor in the adaptation of that technology is precisely the one for whom it was all conceived: the human being!
That is why I wonder: how do your customers deal with technological innovation in your products?
Consequences of technology
There are the necessary developments in the manufacturing industry that now have a major impact on the design of your products, such as preventive maintenance, smart industry and industry 4.0. Suppose you make irrigation units. In your new design, you provide all physical control options and wear parts such as pumps, valves and switches with sensors, linked to a database with data analysis software, a monitoring app for your customers and a dashboard for yourself to keep an overview of all indicators of all installations. all your customers with the possibility to adjust and adjust it remotely. Amazing, right?
But have you ever wondered what consequences this has for the structure of your organization, the competences and skills of your engineers, installers, fitters, service consultants and sales employees? And above all: have you wondered what that means for your customers?
You may think that your customers' lives will only get easier, but before that happens, your customers also have to go through a transition. A transition of letting go, surrendering to you and trusting you as a partner, instead of an interchangeable supplier. Moreover, your customers are not always involved in your current product development process, so they do not understand your brilliant design at all, because it does not make as much sense to them as it seems to you. As a result, the innovation does not always provide a solution to the real problems of the customers and the innovation does not always match the knowledge, skills and experience of the customers.
In short, integrating the technology into your products can be realized relatively quickly. However, experiencing the transition internally with your colleagues and externally with your customers is of a completely different order. Namely, that of a person who does not like to be changed and wants to keep a grip on what he can oversee and understand! How do you deal with that?
I spoke to a supplier of building climate systems who proudly said that they had equipped their products with the latest technology in accordance with industry 4.0. However, after the launch of the new product, the disappointments followed quickly. Sellers complained that hardly any added value was visible in the product and customers did not see the added value either. For example, this high-tech innovation threatened to become a stillborn child.
The sellers had been insufficiently involved in this technological development, because they had no understanding of it anyway, the project developers assumed. Customers weren't involved in the development process either, as the product development manager said, "If Ford had asked its customers what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses, not cars."
These all seem legitimate and understandable arguments, but nothing could be further from the truth!
The knowledge gap that was created during product development with vendors and customers became a serious threat to the successful adoption and adaptation of the new product. Will you ever be able to bridge that knowledge gap after launch?
Support, knowledge and skills
While sales colleagues and customers may not know what technology capabilities are available (that's what you can innovate on as a company - Ford's car), they often understand their problems, or at least provide enough information on which to base your technology innovation : user information, which sellers also need to convince your customers.
Customers and colleagues often know very well what they want, but often do not know how to put it into words, let alone achieve it. It is therefore crucial in any innovation process to involve both customers and representatives from other departments of your organization by asking open-ended questions, with which you can gain insights for your technological innovation.
Don't just ask about business pain points and expectations, but also about their personal issues. The pitfall is to talk about functionalities too quickly, but if your conversation partner still has insufficient insight into that, it will not yield much. Ultimately, it is about creating broad support among all relevant stakeholders. All input from them is therefore relevant. Both for development, and for acceptance and adaptation.
In addition to investing in technological development, this also means investing in services with regard to support, knowledge and skills, in order to ensure that the new technology lands well internally and with customers. So that they see the value of the renewal, the services are aimed at removing uncertainties and giving them a maximum feeling of comfort. It must be so good that colleagues and customers automatically become ambassadors of your technological innovation without encouragement and full of conviction!
Take a look in the mirror and answer these questions:
- How much attention and budget do you give to services such as support, knowledge development and skills in technological innovations?
- When do you start with this, upon delivery of the end product, or at the start of the innovation?
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