It was primarily one single observation that led to the foundation of the Institute for Customer Insight at the University of St. Gallen in 2009. We had recognised the intention in many businesses to orientate all management activities to the needs of customers. Unfortunately, it was often the case that the attempts at implementation did not keep pace with strategic ambitions. There were two main reasons for this. On the one hand, the concept of ‘customer-orientation’ had not been correctly grasped while, on the other, the actual effects of ‘genuine’ customer-orientation on the culture, organisation and management of a business were underestimated.
Businesses are only really customer-orientated when they are constantly able to obtain new and in-depth insights into the way their customers think, feel and act – in other words gain customer insights – and are at the same time capable of integrating these in business models, products, services or other product features. It is only when this is achieved, that competitive success is possible. In order to generate and utilise customer insights, a business needs to put in place a culture that enables permanent transformation. This places considerable demands on management and personnel.
It is our intention to contribute to enabling businesses to remodel themselves as ‘genuine’ customer-orientated organisations through our research. In order to achieve this objective, we employ a holistic approach that combines the disciplines of customer behaviour, innovation, transformation and leadership. By means of the systematic use of academic methods, we aim to produce valuable and substantiated solutions that can be employed in one of the most important sectors of business practice today.