Your CRM System is also an Innovation System

Innovation is improved with an information system to prioritize innovation ideas, track innovation prototypes, forecast market acceptance and measure innovation program success. You could create a custom innovation application, but a better idea is to append your CRM system.

Innovation starts by finding problems that matter, and then improving or creating products or services to resolve them. The best place to find the problems that matter is your customers. That's why CRM can help. It's the customer system of record, and when correctly implemented, manages all customer information in a way that can surface data to identify the most important problems that would benefit from innovative solutions.

CRM software has also the tools to engage customers and learn how to create better products and services. We are in the age of the social customer. Customers will tell you what they want, and how to improve your products or services, but you have to ask them. Business leaders can advance their CRM software to collaborate with customers during product design, production, distribution, sales, service and returns to create more valuable products and services.

How to use CRM Software as your Innovation System

Our Innovation Framework uses the CRM application as an innovation information system to help clients manage product innovation. Here is a summary of how we do it.

Innovation CRM System Process

Create richly defined customer segmentation

We start by appending the CRM account data model for downstream innovation use cases. Customers are not homogenous so they must be grouped into customer segments for precision. We add fields to bring specificity to buyer personas, the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and we identify the 5 types of buyer insights for each persona and segment. This data rolls up so we know exactly why and when each type of customer chooses to purchase a product; and why and when they don't.

Ideal Customer Profile

Harvest Customer Feedback

We then enrich the customer model with data that can be used for innovation purposes. We use CRM as a tool to continuously gather customer input, feedback and problems. We use CRM software capabilities such as Voice of the Customer, social listening, crowdsourcing, speech analytics, conversational intelligence and other tools to automatically capture and route the right data to the account model. Below is an illustration of how we acquire and transform Voice of the Customer data.

Voice of the Customer Data Transformation

For some clients, we use smartbots and virtual agents on the website or social channels as they can capture data from visitors who are not customers and thereby expand the innovation data set.

There is no shortage of tools to help acquire, analyze and apply customer data. Based on our experience in working with clients we categorized many of the more popular tools in the below table.

Customer Intelligence Tools

We also get helpful insights from CRM software transactions. We have built simple programs that filter and extract transactions such as help desk tickets, campaign conversions and lost sale opportunities. All of these transactions are used to add more intelligence to the innovation ideation model.


Centralize Customer Intelligence

All this information needs to be easily accessible in the CRM system. So, we architect CRM to categorize the data, make it available in the places where it can be used and make it accessible to the innovation application. When the customer data is easily viewable and accessible, we have working Customer Intelligence.

Customer Intelligence for Innovation

One more thing to keep in mind. Account information for the innovation model must include data for monetization. It is needed to calculate product profit and market opportunity for solutions that solve customer problems. However, CRM apps generally do not have financial fields such as customer profitability and customer lifetime value, so you will need to add them.


Visualize Innovation Ideation

We can now create a flexible Innovation Ideation Model that surfaces customer problems for innovation consideration. Many of our clients refer to this as their innovation app or innovation information system. The model can be created in CRM as a custom entity and then customer data (that define problems for innovation) can be easily harvested, tabulated, weighted and prioritized.

The results are improved when using CRM Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms to filter, sort and prioritize customer input; re-rank the most appealing innovations; and then calculate an innovation ideation scorecard. CRM AI solutions such as Azure Machine Learning and Salesforce Einstein make these tasks simple.


Use Design Thinking to Solve for the Customer

The Innovation Ideation Model will identify the top ranked problems that are ready for solutioning. There are several solutioning methods but one that works really well is Design Thinking. A Design Thinking workshop is the fastest and most effective method to identify the solutions to the most important and highest impact customer problems.

Design Thinking for CRM

Iterate Until Enthusiastic Customer Acceptance

A Design Thinking workshop typically finishes with Hills and Playbacks that are ready for prototyping. CRM customer intelligence is again used for the solution acceptance measurement scale and to know when a prototype is done and ready for market introduction. In the below example, the prototype is ready for market acceptance when it crosses the Chasm marked with the dotted red line. Each of the pyramid layers have a measurable definition that is applied to each prototyping cycle.

Innovation Prototype Acceptance Scale

Make the Entire Process Measurable

Finally, we use our innovation dashboards to bring real-time visibility to the most important key performance indicators and predictability to the innovation prototyping process. Innovation prototypes must be continuously measured to show quantifiable progress. But measuring progress in a vacuum and without connection to a forecasted commercialization is a fool's errand.

The best innovation dashboards permit real-time predictive modeling to show how changes in customer assumptions, buyer insights, price elasticity, market supply and other key factors effect customer adoption and market acceptance. It is this level of reporting that shifts the dashboard value from sharing bad news too late, to sharing the foresight that prevents bad news.

Innovation Prototype Dashboard

The reason CRM software should not just be your customer system of record but also your innovation system of record is that the tighter the integration between customers and innovation, the more likely your innovative solutions will solve the most important customer problems and achieve the most success.