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Companies like Pfizer, Siemens, and AT&T have discovered that idea challenges are the missing links to solving customer experience problems.

What is an idea challenge you may be wondering?

An idea challenge is a core component in any effective innovation program. It’s a way for you to identify ideas at scale from employees, customers, partners, or any other crowd, and challenge them to help surface the best solutions to specific problems.

With that, how can you ensure an idea challenge has the highest chance of solving your customer experience problems? This blog post gives you four tips to guarantee your success.

Get executive sponsorship

If you want to drive significant engagement for an idea challenge, gaining executive sponsorship is crucial.

While you can get engagement without it, having an executive back your challenge ensures three things:

  1. The problem you’re looking to solve is seen as a top priority in the eyes of employees
  2. You’re leveraging an executive’s influence within the company to drive higher engagement
  3. There’s commitment to implementing ideas

Executive sponsorship is key to running successful idea challenges.

How this improves customer centricity: Who would have higher employee engagement for an idea challenge, a new hire or a CEO? Having an executive, such as a CEO or Chief Customer Officer, back a customer experience challenge will create a sense of urgency among employees that generates higher quality ideas and collaboration.

Create a strong communication plan

With all of the hustle and bustle within your company’s four walls, it’s easy for employees to forget a challenge is running. To combat this, it’s critical to have a strong communication plan in place.

There should be a regular stream of communications (using email, slack, or whatever communication tool your employees use) going out to your user base.

Your communication plan should include:

  • How frequently you’re going to communicate with your crowd
  • The type of communication you’ll be sending (e.g. a weekly email digest of the top ideas and contributors, or physical desk drops to create awareness of your challenge)
  • Who the communications will be coming from (i.e. CEO)

The point is that you want to be sure your crowd is always aware of what’s going on in the challenge, and use communication as a prompt to drive consistent engagement.

How this improves customer centricity: A strong communication plan ensures you’re regularly engaging your user base (frontline call center, customer success managers, etc.). This only help you drive people back into the challenge, which means a consistent stream of ideas aimed at solving your particular customer experience problem.

Pro tip! If you really want to drive significant engagement, use your executive sponsor to send communications to your crowd.

Include the right people

There’s not a single person on Earth that knows everything.

If you’re trying to solve a specific problem, say improving customer satisfaction, it’s a good idea to include – but not limit it to – the people that interact with customers on a daily basis. By tapping into their ideas, it gives you a more effective way of tackling the problem because they have insights that others in your company may not have.

How this improves customer centricity: The more knowledge you can leverage from your customer success team, call center, or any other customer-facing role or department, the better position you’ll be in to identify the right solutions.

Motivate employees to drive engagement

Why are people willing to stand in line days before the release of a new iPhone even though they can buy it later or even the next day?

It’s simple…

They’re motivated by the recognition that comes with being one of the the first people in the world to have the latest and greatest iPhone.

Whether it’s recognition, monetary rewards, lunch with the CEO, or some other incentive, motivating employees is crucial to driving engagement. They need a reason to take part in your idea challenge.

This is where understanding your employees is critical. Some might find satisfaction in just contributing (intrinsically motivated), while others find value in monetary rewards or other prizes (extrinsically motivated).

How this improves customer centricity: Motivation has everything to do with participation. If you motivate employees the right way, you get higher quality customer experience oriented ideas on a more frequent basis.

Final thoughts

Finding new ways to improve customer satisfaction or reduce customer churn doesn’t have to be like finding a needle in a haystack.

If you use the collective knowledge that’s already within your company, you stand a much better chance of identifying the one, two, three, or more ideas that can make a drastic impact.

Ultimately, an idea challenge is the gateway to getting your company’s customer experience efforts on the right track faster.