In tomorrow's economy, leaders who innovate service and CX will have the upper hand

In tomorrow's economy, leaders who innovate service and CX will have the upper hand

With an increased shift to online transactions during COVID-19, service innovation and customer experience (CX) are skyrocketing as priorities for many businesses and leaders.

E-commerce growth rose by 80 per cent in the eight weeks following the World Health Organisation's (WHO) declaration of a pandemic. Many organisations had to pivot their offerings at a rapid rate to a purely online format, forcing them to accelerate the innovation of their customer experience.

Even before the pandemic, customer experience management was listed among the top 10 priorities of CEOs around the globe. 

"Every business must consider themselves in the service sector and competing on service, not only on product differentiation," says Dr David Solnet, an Associate Professor and service management expert from The University of Queensland Business School.

With decades of experience running restaurants before pivoting to academia, Dr Solnet says the coronavirus pandemic is now accelerating the need more than ever for business leaders to innovate their customer experience.

"Those that innovate their service and CX will have the upper hand as the economy continues to rapidly evolve," says Dr Solnet.

"Our online Master of Leadership in Service Innovation has seen enrolments dramatically increase by nearly 40 per cent during the pandemic, highlighting the demand for leaders to rethink and transform their user journey."

Mark Higgins, a student in the program who leads a team developing service processes at South East Queensland's public transport agency, says the online master's has changed his perspective in a way that is "so desperately needed in today's world".

"The service-dominant approach that they bring up in the first subject is just game-changing in my profession and for any business really. It changes the way you engage in business entirely," he says.

The UQ Business School's Master of Leadership in Service Innovation is delivered on the internationally acclaimed learning platform EdX.

Dr Solnet, who led the steering group that developed the program, says it changes many of the fundamentals of management and leadership.

The program also capitalises on the university's 'Service Innovation Alliance', a dedicated area of service research in the Business School with an industry advisory board represented by 10 service-centric businesses including RACQ and KPMG.

"We have come to realise that much of what is taught in universities now is based on developing products and selling them in the marketplace. But around 80 per cent of the economy now in most developed economies is in the service and experience domain," says Solnet

"Just look at Apple - it's had a huge shift from physical phone and hardware revenue to the fastest growing part of the company now being their services such as music, news and streaming subscriptions."

"That's a really nice example for what this program is about changing the mindset from having product-based companies to customer and experience-based companies. The need for continual innovation is paramount to survival."

Dr Solnet emphasises the Master of Leadership in Service Innovation, while founded on expertise developed through cutting-edge research, takes a very applied 'real-time' approach, helping students use the concepts learned directly in their own organisations.

Higgins confirms he is already utilising the learnings at his work.

"The service blueprints and customer journey maps have actually become a very valuable tool for us in my workplace today, and likewise we've made a couple of internal service improvements using those design thinking tools from the platform as well."

Dr Solnet believes professionals at all levels in an organisation should be thinking differently about how value is created for customers.

"It's about using tools, such as data analytics in clever ways to drive the customer experience and create a more innovative culture,  creating value for both company and customer

"For businesses to remain ahead of the competition in a world filled with disruption, it requires organisationally deep thinking about every aspect of the business, especially service and customer innovation."

Dr Solnet recognises there will naturally be a higher level of perceived risk for some in committing to a new type of degree that is fully online, but the learning and development to be gained can equip nearly anyone for a new business paradigm that is emerging.

"This master's is developed with production studios, animators, production specialists, script writers and videographers. The experience practices what we preach of putting the customer first to deliver an extremely engaging experience, paired with the flexibility of the on online format," he says.

Higgins agrees, noting that "between the staff and the other students degree I still receive a strong level of interaction and networking".

This story was written in partnership with The University of Queensland Business School.

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