Be the Change You Wish to See: A Transformation Toward Customer Centricity
By Camille Nicita, President & CEO, Gongos, Inc.
Any organizational leader would agree that business model transformation demands innovation across multiple dimensions. Orchestrating the delicate interplay of people, process and technology to continually bring new value to customers is an immense challenge, both strategically and operationally. As a female leader, I recently shepherded a transformational evolution and would like to share how taking an outside-in approach to better emulating your clients—and the world around you—can be just the force you need to reflect the change you wish to affect.
A Personal Testimony
As a company rooted in restless dissatisfaction, we knew that broadening our value in a world where data is trying to win required transforming how corporations discover, internalize and act on consumer information. Discussions with clients further revealed a fundamental paradox. Despite their externally professed hyper-focus on consumers, internal barriers were inhibiting them from being truly customer-centric.
In order to help them break down functional silos, fuse knowledge streams and create new ways of bringing data to life inside their organizations to fuel better decisions, we knew we needed to evolve from a market research firm to a decision intelligence company. So, we set out on a path to disrupt our founding business model while retaining the core competencies that had cemented cross-industry respect, client diversification and steady growth since 1991.
Beyond integrating new skillsets and introducing new talent, we forged multidisciplinary teams to become a beacon for clients in their quest to operationalize customer centricity. Modeling the kind of customer-centric organization we were asking our clients to become demanded recalibrating our organization and our offerings across three dimensions:
People: Recast and built teams around emerging industry disciplines grounded in customer centricity (e.g. Customer Experience, Chief Customer Officer); and developed a flat, decentralized “Team of Teams” culture.
Process: Developed a real-time, online diagnostic tool (DICE) to help client organizations assess the degree to which they operationalize customer centricity in their decision making; created a decision intelligence framework to facilitate organizational transformation; and launched a human-centered design offering to help clients build a customer-centric culture of innovation.
Technology: Building upon our proprietary consumer insights platform, we launched a Customer Experience offering aimed at empowering our clients’ employees to fuel and act on their customer-centric vision.
Finally, to optimize the adoption of change across these dimensions, we relocated 146 full-time employees into a newly built headquarters designed to enhance the collaboration, agility and company culture required to fully realize the potential of our business transformation.
The Impetus for Change
A core reason why customer centricity has traditionally been difficult to systematize is because no single organizational functional area has had ownership of it. The recent rise of the Chief Customer Officer is a significant step toward the cultural transformation required to orient corporate teams such as marketing, innovation, product development and operations around the customer. However, the larger and more established an organization is, the more it is weighted down by its legacy structure.
As a result, these organizations embark on fragmented approaches to understand and engage with their customers. It’s not surprising, then, that they engage partners in a similarly disjointed fashion. Data analytics firms provide the expertise and bandwidth to address big data challenges. Consumer insights companies bring forth understanding and market knowledge. Management consulting firms address strategic and organizational design needs. Creative agencies support corporate and brand communications. Customer Experience companies provide ‘Voice of the Customer’ platforms for measuring the customer journey and experience. At the end of the day, however, this scattershot approach hinders decision-making power, and takes a significant toll on organizations both financially and operationally.
The most effective Intelligence business model brings the disciplines of data science, communication design, consumer insights and analytics, strategic consulting, customer experience, change management and innovation consulting under one roof. By weaving these often-isolated disciplines together, organizations can engage with one firm to consult, execute and drive organizational change to fuel growth and ultimately create a more reciprocal relationship with consumers.
Societal Ties Matter
There are implications from a societal perspective as well. For example, consumers are no longer content to simply support corporations that differentiate on products and services alone. Within the new information-sharing economy, in exchange for “granting” access to what, when, and how they buy, consumers increasingly expect a more reciprocal relationship with corporations.
This drives the need for organizations to adopt a more outside-in philosophy, predicated on the tenet that decision making is fueled by continual consumer understanding placed in the broader context of societal and technological trends. Beyond reciprocity, organizations are striving to use this knowledge to form authentic connections that create lasting value and lifetime loyalty.
In short, this paradigm not only forges deeper connections with consumers, but it actually evolves the corporation to suit the changing world in which it exists.
Taken from this perspective, our business model transformation is aimed at nothing less than reorienting the fundamental relationship between corporations and the consumers whose patronage is their lifeblood.
The Bottom Line
For companies to provide consult to other organizations, it is important to first take a deep look within to inspire and emulate the change they wish to see. In our case at Gongos, this transformation to a more customer-centric culture, helped us to revolutionize the way we operate internally to better serve as a catalyst for change with the clients we consult—and ultimately the world we live in.
As published in London Business Magazine and Enterprising Women Magazine.