Camille Nicita, President & CEO, Gongos, Inc.
Given the uncertainty that 2020 will undoubtedly bring with elections and shifting corporate mandates, it’s more important than ever for business leaders to set priorities for the decade ahead. But changes that affect both corporations and consumers alike raise the imminent question: “how can organizations deliver on a people-first ethos in a decade that may otherwise be defined by technology-driven change?”
Reflecting on the last few years of the past decade, the tight labor market — prompted by the passage of the Tax Cuts and Job Act in 2017 — spurred a dedicated focus on employee experience, employee retention and employee engagement. Companies have embraced an employee-first mandate, tossing around buzzwords like “employer branding” and “employee belongingness” in addition to introducing new organizational roles like ‘Chief People Officer.’
The truth is, creating an exceptional employee experience is just one part of humanizing your brand. In addition to keeping a dedicated focus on those in your organization, humanizing your company in a technology-first era requires you to further understand and connect with customers. Here’s some guidance for leaders to keep in mind when setting effective, customer-centric goals for 2020, and beyond.
- Focus on customer experience. Amid fluctuations in the economy and technological breakthroughs, the only constant is your need for customers. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. To continue to grow your relationships with them, you must strengthen your focus on customer experience (CX). In 2020, customer experience is expected to overtake product and price as a chief brand differentiator. And, according to Gartner, investments in customer experience and relationship management software have grown to over $42 billion with annual growth rates ranging between 15% and 20%, over the past several years. To attract and retain customers, you must provide them with exceptional experiences that surpass competitor brands.
- Set goals that coexist with the customers’ why. It’s important to dedicate the needed time and effort to truly understand your customers’ underlying need states and motivations. What drives them to buy and why are they doing so? The “why” part of this equation can be increasingly elusive, given the demand to rely on the real-time nature of behavioral data. Behavioral data grants us the “what” and often informs short-term strategies and tactics. However, these tactics constantly change with technological evolution and marketplace shifts.
Oftentimes, the why is where differentiation lives because of its tie to the emotional component of decision making. It is also often grounded in value or belief systems that largely remain unchanged. Uncovering the why requires human interaction with your customers. And, to create the most holistic view, behavioral data needs to be overlaid with human motivational factors. This can be realized by empowering frontline employees to actively listen to customers and funnel observations up to executives. Executives are also encouraged to establish discipline around gaining empathy for customers by better immersing themselves in their worlds. Numbers such as NPS and CSAT are one-dimensional, point-in-time exercises, and organizations are far better served to delve into the why of these singular measures to gain truer understanding of humans in all their complexity.
- Leverage data to build reciprocal relationships. Customer expectations are higher than ever. In exchange for granting access to what, when, how, and where they buy, customers have an increasing expectation for a more reciprocal relationship with corporations. In fact, our own research shows that customers crave a more customized and personalized experience and are ready to provide personal data to get it. Notably, over half of Millennials are willing to have their facial details and fingerprints on file if it means that products and services will be customized to their preferences (55%) and if retailers can deliver real-time promotions that are relevant to them while shopping (52%).
That said, when trusted with personal data, brands and marketers alike must dance the delicate line of technological evolution and sensitivity to protect and respect consumer security. If handled carelessly, a breech in privacy will place consumer trust and loyalty at risk.
Regardless of what the future holds and where technology takes us, a great customer experience is always preceded by a great employee experience. And, while it is important to set priorities for the coming decade with customers at the forefront, there is no better representation of your brand than your frontline employees. The symbiotic nature of the customer and employee relationship is critical to a people-first growth mindset. Leaders who embrace this are sure to ride the waves of change in 2020 and beyond.
About the Author: Having joined in the launch of Gongos Research in 1991, Camille’s forward-leaning posture is establishing a new north for the company. As CEO, Camille understands what it takes for Fortune 500 companies to make business decisions on behalf of consumers. She believes operationalizing customer centricity as a strategy for growth and building strong cultural buy-in will have a harmonizing effect on stakeholders. Beyond driving behaviors through impactful communication, knowledge activation, and change management initiatives, she believes adopting an ‘outside-in’ approach to humanizing consumers is essential in a world where data is trying to win. Staying true to the company’s core competencies while nurturing new talent, Camille operates under the belief that people realize their full potential when put in the right seats. Her grounding vision is to foster a culture where innovation, transparency, and vibrancy shape a company fit for the future. She has served as Chairperson of the Advisory Board of Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Marketing Research Program and has contributed to the University of Michigan’s Institute for Survey Research. She earned a BBA at the University of Michigan and MBA at Wayne State University. Camille is the sole owner of Gongos, Inc., a WBENC company.