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The roots of Altuïtion

Where does the name Altuïtion come from?

The name is a portmanteau consisting of the words “alignment” and “intuition.” The first element refers to control, predictability, and processes, something that is important to managers – and rightfully so. But it also refers to our engineering approach: we work according to scientific methods and deliver verifiable, hard results. The second element refers to our specialization on the soft side: This is about providing insight into the largely subconscious experience of customers and employees. Both elements of our name also correspond to the two human brain hemispheres. An optimal interaction between both the hard and the soft side is also a daily challenge for every manager.

Altuïtion is known as a business innovation agency specializing in commercial innovation and customer experience. But has it always been this way?

Berry Veldhoen and Wilfred Achthoven founded Altuïtion in 1997. Both originally came from the world of knowledge systems; in fact, it was artificial intelligence avant la lettre. So, we're talking about the period after 1986. At Bolesian, the first artificial intelligence company in the Netherlands, Berry and Wilfred first encountered the challenge of capturing expert knowledge and translating it into accessible systems. After all, an expert cannot just tell why and how they are so good at arriving at certain solutions and advice. Even then, they were already busy developing new forms of listening. The knowledge systems company Bolesian was taken over by Volmac, which was later to become Capgemini. Here Berry and Wilfred set up a new innovation activity: Advanced Technology Services. They formed a good team in sensing new knowledge areas in an enterprising commercial context. This then formed the basis for them to decide to start their own consultancy formula during a study trip to California on Steve's Beach, called Altuïtion.

In the first years of Altuïtion, the emphasis was more on inspiring business managers using new technological developments, such as the internet and data mining with innovative technology as a strategic instrument to create and realize new business opportunities. This alignment between technology and business was quite new at the time. In the course of time, it became apparent that the resulting innovations were mainly applied in commercial areas by our clients, such as distinctive propositions and excellent customer service. Moreover, in the hard world of management more and more attention was being paid to the soft phenomenon of customer experience – partly as a result of Pine and Gilmore's brilliant book The Experience Economy. Altuïtion gradually shifted from business innovation in its service provision to commercial innovation in which the customer and customer experience always take center stage.

The first company logo contained a cactus. What happened to it?

At the time, the cactus was a symbol for stimulating (prikkelen in Dutch also means stinging like the needles of a cactus) organizations to innovate. And that is something that Altuïtion does up until this day. But now Altuïtion puts more emphasis on realizing that innovation together with the client. The business plans of many organizations often describe how things should be done differently, after which it is said that it is a pity that they can't get everyone within the organization on board in making a change. Smart innovation is mainly done by starting with the people who make it, and those are the people on the shop floor. And you don't tackle this with a revolution, but rather the Japanese way: in small steps and across all the layers in the organization. The way in which Altuïtion is currently improving sub-processes with Customer Journeys based on new insights into moments of truth in the experience of end customers may not seem spectacular at first glance, but in fact it is the only right way to really, and not only cosmetically, affect change.

The next logo and business card contained a big ear and the words “Altuïtion. The Listening Consultants.” Is this once again a clear case of evolving insights?

Indeed. After all, innovation starts with listening carefully. But that logo illustrated that Altuïtion, as a listening consultant, was applying a new kind of listening to help organizations gain insight into the conscious and subconscious motives of their customers. Help is needed in this process, because the B2C or B2B customers cannot just put these motives into words. This form of deep listening still forms the core of what we do and the breakthroughs we achieve with clients. If we have become very good at something, it is in analyzing and visualizing the subconscious mental processes of our clients' customers. Companies that claim to be very good at listening to their clients often do so by asking them all kinds of questions. While this is also useful, the things that really impact customers are the things that they cannot always put into words themselves. This is because at least 90% of the motives for human behavior are located in the subconscious. For some years now, we have had powerful methodologies such as the Customer Journey ESPE™ to bring these motives to the surface and then to confront the resulting insights directly with the current customer processes and customer contacts as they are conducted at the client's organization. This confrontation is mainly performed by the employees of our clients. Because the employees empathize so deeply with the experience of their customers, they immediately come up with suggestions for products, services, and service processes that make the difference in the customer's experience. In fact, during such a Customer Journey Mapping & Customer Journey Making project, the employees work directly on a new momentum in dealing with and serving customers: They create a new engagement. That is why we have been calling ourselves “The Engagement Engineers” for a number of years now.

And what does the future hold?

Our strategy for the coming years is clear and we are growing in a constant, pleasant way. We encourage a wide range of organizations to innovate in a way in which customer and employee experience are central, but do not forget that we also have to reinvent ourselves on a regular basis. We don't exactly know where Altuïtion will be in ten years' time but what we do know is that we have a bright, challenging future ahead of us, a future in which we can help many more organizations orchestrate their Customer Journeys and make an emotional connection with customers and employees and help them discover the hard return of soft factors. A future with Altuïtion as a journey leader.