Reflections on winning 4 CX measurement and management awards
Last year GemSeek, the company I have the pleasure to be working at, won a total of 4 awards at the European Customer Centricity Awards event. This year we just got nominated for another 4 awards of the Customer Centricity World Series. All of these revolve around CX measurement, digital transformation, and text analytics - the things we at GemSeek try to excel at.
Other than shamelessly sharing how proud I am with the team that made this happen, I'd like to offer you some insights on how did we make this happen. Here's my list:
1. Collaborating with the client.
This, as many other things in life, seems obvious, yet we often fail to do it. And it holds the prime spot in this improvised list for a good reason - the customer is always (always!) a co-creator of value, as Vargo and Lusch show brilliantly in this article. There are no exceptions to this rule. Companies can offer value propositions, they can offer tools for customers to extract value, they can even suggest ways and work with the customer to create value, but the customer always takes part.
What we did to win these awards is provide the tools and be there when our clients needed us. We gave our clients something to work with and constantly worked with them to come up with ideas on what they can use these deliverables for, and how to put them to good use.
Nothing more, nothing less - deliver what you can deliver and be there to help the customer create value.
2. Knowing our limitations and actively push against them.
We are a relatively young company. We don't have hundreds of people doing product development alone. We don't have the benefit of having tens of offices around the world. Yet, over our 10 year life, we expanded what we do from market research only to one of the few companies offering a combination of research, data science capabilities, automated (and bespoke) text analytics, and a CX measurement platform.
I won't lie to you - we have stretched our value propositions when pitching to clients. Never to the extent that we are incapable to deliver what we promise, but over-promising? Yes, we've had our fair share of it. Has this caused us problems? Tell me about it!
Yet, as I mentioned, we have never been in a situation in which we cannot deliver on our promise. Perhaps slowly in the beginning; perhaps painfully; perhaps accompanied with emails from clients that look the type that you don't want to open, yes. But at the end of the day, that is part of the inherent dynamics of (business) life - you need to survive and you need to learn. This, thanks for the patience of our clients and the perseverance of our teams, we did well.
3. Single-mindedness is a virtue.
All start-ups do this - they start doing one thing and driven by the need to make money they quickly start expanding to other product/service areas. This is when they start spreading themselves thin and lose the luster that made them exciting in the first place.
Were we there? Yep, three years ago we were exactly in this position. Doing too many things for too diverse a set of clients and for too diverse a set of personas. We are past this slump, due to the concerted efforts of our leadership team and our consultants. It's a cliche, but there is a reason for its existence - you need to know where you are going. The moment we focused our efforts on the things we do well and the industries we know, the magic started to happen. We started spending the precious little resources that we had on the things that mattered the most to us and our clients, and the results quickly came.
4. Organized for success.
People invest tremendous amounts of energy in every company every day. It's the leadership team's responsibility and privilege to channel these efforts in order to deliver maximum value to the clients. We were doing it wrongly.
Just three years ago, we were managing a company that was in constant flux. All-hands-on-deck and fire-fighting was a part of everyday life. We expected everyone to do pretty much anything. We expected people to sell with the ease with which they analyze market research data. We wanted IT people to be client-facing ones, and analysts to scope dashboards. It wasn't working.
It took us a year and a half to implement a new structure and redefine people's roles. And while a year and a half doesn't sound much, do keep in mind I'm not talking about a company the size of Philips or GE here - there are 150 of us, which is nothing compared to the truly big companies of this world. It was a painful process, requiring constant communication and guidance, persistence, stubbornness even! I'll tell you this - it's worth it, for once you hit rock bottom (which happens quite soon after you start), you quickly start seeing the light. It's an extremely rewarding feeling that keeps you going until all efforts bear fruit in the shape of happy clients and industry-wide recognition.
5. Open doors and open minds.
I almost missed including this one, and it would have been an easy thing for me to do because the things we are used to seeing and doing are also the things we don't pay special attention to. Our culture, as I guess every company's culture, is a mixture of things that really define us and things that we aspire to become. Openness, in our case, is a splendid example the first class of things - it so embedded in our work life, that we forget it exists.
We are a company at which everyone can easily reach everyone else. We chat, and we discuss, and we contemplate. We meet and brainstorm. We obsess. Is it always good? Hell no! We hold way too many meetings, often involving way too many people. It's not exactly the definition of efficiency. But at the stage we are at, it works for us. It works because it broadens our view and because it speeds up our learning process. It works because we look at things from multiple angles and because it keeps us open to suggestions from many perspectives. And that is something that I wish never changes (although I do wish we had slightly fewer meetings)
Such an overused word with such a simple meaning! Let people do what they are good at and trust them. Just trust. One thing I constantly tell remind myself is what Steve Jobs said: "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do."
That's the crux of the matter. Let the smart people do their job and even if they don't get it right the first time, trust them to improve. Help them improve. Guide them to improve. Practice tough love. Be rough if you need to - that's all fine. But don't restrict them. Very few of the things we have done, some of which won us a handful of awards, stem from the leadership team. Most of the good ideas actually came from a. clients and b. people working with clients. We do our best to foster this, and will continue to do so.
7. Hire people who want to do an excellent job.
I use three major criteria when I hire people:
Do they want to do an excellent job?
Are they coachable?
Will they be destructive for the environment we are looking to create?
I don't really care for much else. If they want to excel, they have the drive to pull them through adversities. If they are coachable, they can learn anything. And if they are not destructive for the culture, they will add to it. This is it. I try to get our clients to work with people with growth mindset who are looking and capable of improving.
This indeed is the vital ingredient that makes or breaks any business recipe - people win awards, not companies.
My best wishes for a great day ahead!