Creativity and Relationships – Bedfellows of Customer Experience Success

Defining the relationship defines the engagement

When I wrote the wrap-up article for the European SDL Innovate shows, referencing the data indicative of nuances in cultures and customer experience expectations in Europe, I was eager to see and hear how things might differ at the US leg in San Francisco with the phrase “Not just any old opportunity, a new differentiated opportunity” remaining as a salient truth.

The keynotes would reveal keen insights into how organizations need to set themselves up to succeed at customer experience delivery and how to be the differentiated organization that they aspire to be.  And the good news is that there are many routes to destination success.

Ted Rubin shared several tangible and scalable examples on how organizations can and should differentiate which you can relive in the video below:

“It’s so easy these days to build differentiators and make it about customer experience:  Make it building relationships.  Make it caring about people.  Make it just being nice.  And smile at people.”

But let us focus more on the need to differentiate initially before exploring some options for how to execute.

In his keynote, Josh Linkner stated a stark reality relevant to all businesses and the people that make up a business, in an increasingly competitive landscape:

“We can’t leave our careers and our companies to chance.  While we do have to fight back sometimes, it’s even better if we never have to fight at all.”

As if that wasn’t warning shot across the bows enough, Josh also added: “Complacency kills far more companies than cutting costs.”  As with Ted, Josh shared some truly remarkable examples and it was ever thus that to differentiate your experience you will also differentiate your results.

The details of these examples are not as important as the fact that these business success stories are such because they identified the need to change, to alter, to tweak and adapt. Through creativity and innovation, each and every example we hear about in these presentations revolves around disrupting the market by being different and better through customer experience.

“Customer experience is the new battle front.  It started with function, and then function with form trumped just function.  But now the next layer in that journey is experience.  Function alone doesn’t cut it today.  Function and design doesn’t cut it today.  It’s the trifecta of function, plus form, plus experience that ultimately wins customer’s hearts and minds.” said Josh.

Creativity and Relationships as the differentiator.

Creativity in business is often stifled before we enter business; it is restricted in the system of education. Our schooling places us into any number of channels; Sporty, Artistic, Scientific, and rarely can a satisfactory combination of all be sustained in an educational program and so it is that we take the chosen path and so when it comes to creativity in a business setting, unlocking such things is tricky.

“What’s happening and all of us grew up in a system just like that, instead of growing in to creativity, we grow out of it. We’re taught in school to follow the rules,” said Josh.

So how do you set up an organization to innovate, to be creative, create lasting relationships and to differentiate outside the box?

In a very B2C line of thinking, Ted takes the example of utilizing social as a means of creative differentiation by fostering relationships. We all understand the notion of ‘doing social’ but is it merely paying lip-service to social or is it strategically using it, even at its most basic offering, to differentiate the experience for customers?

“If a brand on Facebook is saying, What’s your favorite pair of shoes or what did you do this weekend, that’s not engagement. That’s thinking that the platform itself (when someone clicks a button), they are your friends. They are not. That click is just the initial handshake.”

“If I shake your hand, are we friends? Hardly. We became friends by having experiences together, by doing things, by talking to each other, by doing what I call ‘looking people in the eye digitally.’ Now this is the age of influence. This is new media. “

We need to rethink our approach to using social to augment relationships. In the early days of social we got stuck in a mindset that said it was a platform for one-to-one relationships, and that we need to be there at all times, for all people. In reality, all people that follow you do not need you all the time – just those that give signals, raise a flag or send a message.  The rest of your ‘community’ will be satisfied to see how you interact with the few, and that is relationship enough for them.  As Ted puts it, the lurkers are at the great cocktail party of life.   “When you demonstrate that you’re into people, no one will call you out for not answering every single person.”

How are you set-up to foster creativity in your business?   And is it part of the grand scheme of customer experience delivery? How do relationships create a differentiator for your organization? I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Send your responses to

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