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How to change your CX when change is hard

14th Oct 2020
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How to get C-level buy-in for CX improvement initiatives? How to ensure consistency of our approach to CX across departments? How to make sure that all customer representatives commit to delivering great customer experience and know how to do it? How to make CX a priority for your company?

There is a gap in our answers to these questions; a gap that stems from us not answering the question that underpins them all.  

I believe the wider topic  these questions address is this: how to scope, ignite, and manage change within organizations. Translated to the CX domain: how to scope, ignite, and manage the evolution towards a truly customer-centric organization. In essence, what each of the questions in the beginning addresses is this: how to do change management well.

In what follows, I'll offer you a perspective to managing change inspired by the framework Dan and Chip Heath outline in their brilliant book 'Switch: How to change things when change is hard'. 

The framework

"[A]ll change efforts", as Dan and Chip Heath put it succinctly, "have something in common: For anything to change, someone has to start acting differently. ... Ultimately, all change efforts boil down to the same mission: Can you get people to start behaving in a new way?" (Switch, p.4) 

Is this not what all the questions asked in the very beginning boil down to? Is this not what are after - how to get people to behave in a new way? How to get the C-level executives to invest in CX? How to get teams to work together to solve customers' issues? How to get service reps to follow the best practices? 

The way to get people to behave in a new way? The brief answer is: appeal to both to both reason and emotion; to System 1 and System 2; to the part of the mind doing the planning and to the one providing the energy; or as Dan and Chip Heath put it, work with both The Rider (the rational) and The Elephant (the emotional) side every one of us possesses, and do your best to create the best situation for change to happen and stick.

What is so difficult about it? Well, The Rider is great for he provides the direction. Yet, the control he's imposing on The Elephant is exhaustive - self-control, we now know, is a deplorable resource. This is what makes change hard - The Rider is fighting a battle against automatic, habitual behaviors, which is one the toughest ones to fight. 

What can we do about it?

So, change is hard - that we all knew. What can we do increase our chances of changing people's minds or inciting action within our organizations? 

Here's Dan and Chip Heath's deceitfully simple answer:

  • Direct The Rider: "What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction."(Switch, p.17)
  • Motivate the Elephant: "What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The Rider can’t get his way by force for very long. So it’s critical that you engage people’s emotional side—get their Elephants on the path and cooperative." (Switch, p.17)
  • Shape the Path: "What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what’s happening with the Rider and Elephant." (Switch, p.18)

In other words, to increase the odds of a change happening, work alongside these three dimensions: 

  • Make sure that The Rider knows where he's going and that he doesn't lose sight of his target
  • Ensure that The Elephant is motivated, thinks he can do it, and knows how to do it
  • Support these elements by removing any barriers along the way. 

How does this work in practice?

The Rider

To direct The Rider's part of anyone's mind, 1. point to the direction, 2. script the critical moves, and 3. follow the bright spots. 

1. Pointing in the right direction means establishing a vision, a purpose, or a goal of the journey. Everything is easier when one knows where they need to go. In CX terms, I've seen this done in two ways. Most of the companies have a CX metric target, no matter if the metric itself is NPS® or any other. This is a must have, for sure, but it's not enough for I believe it to be a bit too narrow and tactical. 

The second thing I've seen companies do to 'direct The Rider' is to have a customer experience intent statement. This is not something that you will necessarily achieve. Your customer experience intent statement is rather your North Star to follow; the criteria against which you will evaluate all of your decisions related to CX. As Annette Franz puts it in this excellent post, your customer experience intent statement is your answer to this question: "What do you want customers to feel as they interact or transact with your brand?"

Clearly, this could be a hard-sell if you go directly to C-level execs. Maybe you can start with your peers though? Maybe this is already implicit in your brand positioning strategy? In any case, the question itself is brilliant for it can spark creativity and inspire people to act.

2. The second thing you can do to direct The Rider is to script the critical moves. In the CX world, this is a great advice for anyone working with the people in the front lines to deliver great customer experience. The idea behind it is rather simple - think in terms of specific behaviors. So instead of advising service reps to be polite ask them to thank the customer whenever they share feedback. 

A word of advise: while a lot of the moves are common-sense (like being polite), others are not. Good data analytics can help you determine pretty much anything about how an interaction should go to leave the customer happy - from the exact time to say something to how exactly to say it, voice and text analytics are so advanced these days that they can help your service reps immensely.

3. The third thing that helps direct The Rider is finding what already works and replicating it. As a CX professional, this could mean several things. On one hand, you can look for good examples that have been proven to work in other companies and pilot them in your situation. 

Another powerful example I've seen in companies is building success stories to help scale up a CX initiative. A lot of the projects I've worked on with clients through the years have been small-scale experiments to test an idea. A crucial part for their success is tying them to a metric of value or success. At the end of the day, if you want to replicate what works you need to know that it actually works, right? Make sure you generate quick wins that you can then replicate at a bigger scale. It's easier to get buy in if you have something to show for.

The Elephant

Here are the three ways for motivating The Elephant Dan and Chip Heath offer: go for emotional impact, shrink the change, and cultivate a sense of identity. 

  1. A common misconception and one deeply rooted in our minds is that knowledge and information makes people change. These do help but no, they are not enough to make a change. What we need to do if we want people to act differently is to find the feeling that can move them. I know it sounds cynical, but this feeling can really be anything: from true care about customers, through competitiveness and the will to grow within a company, through envy, to fear that the competitors will get an edge, to wanting to put a successful project on a CV. Truth being said, all of these emotions do exist and people do feel them. The point is to find what will make your colleagues tick and go through this channel to inspire a change (or an investment in your initiative). 
  2. The second thing that works well for motivating The Elephant side of our brains is to make the change seem achievable. It could be a long way before you will reach it but this is just going to demotivate The Elephant. Make it small. Show how your CX initiative fits with what your company is already doing. Show it as an extension of an initiative already in place. Position it as a low-hanging fruit. Work with short time horizons. 
  3. And finally, make people feel a part of a team or better yet - of a community. The practice of having CX champions (in whatever shape or form they exist) is a step in this direction. In reality though, positioning 10-20-100 people as CX champions is more likely to create a divide rather than to unite people. What I'd say is to show everyone how they contribute to customers' success. Why not change the positions within the company to better match what everyone is doing for example? On the latter, check out this great article in HBR:

The Path

Besides appealing to The Rider and The Elephant (the rational and the emotional side of our minds), take care to clear the path of obstacles that can make both stumble. Dan and Chip Heath offer the following advice: change the situation, build habits, and rally the herd.

  1. Amazon's one-click ordering is a brilliant example for clearing the path by changing the situation. So is Oral-B's introduction of brush heads whose colour fades to remind you you need to change it. In the second example, instead of fighting people's poor memory, they provided a memory aid. Can you do the same with your CX initiatives? Can they be seen as profit-making projects instead of cost-saving ones for example? Can you implement a 'pay for results' model with your suppliers? The options are myriad - explore them. 
  2. Building habits is one of the most powerful ways to change behavior. How do you do that? Well, habits have the following form: When X happens, I do Y, and this gives me benefit Z. Look for ways to trigger a different Y, a different behavior, by providing a reward when it happens. If you have the power to determine the incentives within your team for example, you can reward the people who delivered the best customer experience. You can also build checklists - these are a great way to trigger behavior. Or you can use the element of surprise to make people consider the new behavior. How many C-level executives know how beneficial delivering great CX can be for their company for example? 
  3. And last but not least, share and celebrate achievements. Success breeds success and people naturally gravitate towards areas in which they can succeed. Generate wins and celebrate them as loudly as you can. Win awards for your CX efforts! Behavior, as Dan adn Chip Heath say, is contagious. Help your people establish a correlation between working on improving customer experience and a successful career, and you'll achieve a lot.

So what? 

In sum, to incite and manage change, following Dan and Chip Heath's advice, work on all of these fronts:

  • The Rider: Figure out which is your CX North Star. Formulate a customer experience intent statement. Listen to customers to understand what they need.
  • The Rider: Script the moves. Use data analytics to come up with the best actions.
  • The Rider: Find what works and replicate it. Measure the impact of your initiatives and scale them up.
  • The Elephant: Find the feeling. Don't rely on knowledge only. Inspire people to act by talking to the emotion that drives them. 
  • The Elephant: Make the change look easy. Position the CX initiatives as a natural continuation instead of a paradigm-shift. Work with what you have.
  • The Elephant: Built a community. Make sure it's an inclusive one instead of an elite club. 
  • The Path: Change the situation. Sometimes it's easier to change people's behavior than their attitudes or knowledge. 
  • The Path: Build habits. Discipline and persistence are key here, as well as smartly deployed action triggers (think notifications).
  • The Path: Celebrate achievements. Behavior is contagious. When your colleagues see your initiatives are making people successful, they will want to join you. 

My best wishes for a great day ahead!




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