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“Businesses turn people the wrong way around so they operate with their face towards the boss and their ‘ass’ towards the customer,” is a picturesque line from Kjell Nordstrom’s Funky Business. Little wonder then that so many companies struggle to twizzle people back towards a ‘relentless focus on the customer’. How can current techniques of change management and internal marketing help?
Cultural change is easiest when a disruptive event hits the organisation i.e. a new strategy, new CEO or market threat/opportunity. For this is when people seek leadership and are more receptive to changing working practices. If no change is at hand then either one is engineered, or more ‘savvy’ work is needed to reach a ‘tipping point’ – a build up of actions that suddenly catapults the change into the ‘big time’. (See recommended reading The Tipping Point)
So those struggling with internal brand alignment should find a disruptive event (maybe a CRM project!) to gain attention and draw staff into co-creating a more compelling culture. Those in the luckier position of having a disruptive change already, should press ahead with change management plans - yet few do. Not only do they lose out on an opportunity to align culture they jeopardise the success of their work. The failure of BPR and process led IT projects is the failure to take account of social and organisational transformation. (See recommended reading The Social Life of Information)
Principals of a Change Plan
Planning for Change
Phase 1: Uncovering Context
Whilst change needs leadership, leadership needs convincing. Phase 1 therefore, examines the current customer and staff experiences against promises. What is happening and in what context – people act according to their environment, a brutalising environment will brutalise the gentlest of characters.
- Use story techniques with staff and customers to get behind what is really happening on the front line. Where are the gaps and why? (see Story - David Firth & Jennifer Kirkby)
- Examine staff satisfaction questionnaires and any feedback system in place
- Examine staff relationships if you have the budget. If not do this at later stage. (see Actions for Enterprise Collaboration - Innovation Assessment by Allan Engelhardt and Bruce Lewin)
Phase 2: Executive Leadership
Leadership is a ‘must have’ but leadership with little knowledge can be worse than none (see New Learning in Implementing CRM Successfully). Phase 2 is about getting executive backing for a customer strategy, an understanding of the current cultural and agreement (if not passion) for that required.
- Politically map senior managers -who are the influencers, advocates and detractors
- Conduct a personalised ‘lobbying’ campaign with each one – and their influencers
- Bring customers themselves, and customer/staff knowledge to the boardroom. Link it to the objectives or operational pain points that senior managers care about i.e. shareholder opinion call centre inefficiencies
- Create with senior managers a story or picture of where the company wants to be. Use storyboard format so that emotions as well as practicalities can be expressed.
Phase 3: Preparing the Ground
Now, with luck, there is budget, a team and positive intentions. However, change programmes are often victims of cynicism and derision. So the ground needs ploughing to remove the stones of resistance. Establish the degree of collaboration and inhibitors in the organisation. Finish any work not done in Phase 1. Decide who needs to do what and put in measures to monitor progress.
- Create a staff impact and adoption map. Who will be affected, to what degree – what is the expected reaction?
- Relationship mapping if not done before. Where are the informal and formal teams/groups in the organisation? Who are the acknowledged experts, persuaders and networkers? (see Actions for Enterprise Collaboration, Allan Engelhardt & Bruce Lewin)
- Look to balanced scorecard measures to establish the links between culture and customer objectives
Phase 4: Collective Change Management
In Phase 4 the programme must hit hard and energise staff. The main task is bringing the vision to life so people identify with it and quickly get through the psychological barriers. Staff will be catapulted out of their comfort zone and have to think harder about what they do. Involve them fully in the work harness their ideas and ambitions. Sow the seeds of change but reap quick wins to act as exemplars. This phase succeeds when momentum comes from top down encouragement and bottom up enthusiasm; it fails if it stays roots in the boardroom
- Create ‘voice of the customer’ workshops , surgeries and communities of practice to keep all staff up-to-date with customer knowledge, but more importantly encourage the use of customer information in decision making
- Establish staff feedback – ranging from suggestion to regular reviews between brand managers and call centre staff. Ensure senior mangers ‘walk the floor’
- Build a model offices for cross functional teams to experiment with new methods of working
- In training and education use staff to put over new ideas in their own words e.g. video or even customer advertising as the Halifax Bank have successfully done
- Material should anchor learning, be useful and entertaining. Packaging is all -encourage ‘stickiness’ with creative writing, quality and the use of all the senses
- Synchronise customer and staff messages - don’t promote top class customer service whilst telling staff cutting cost has primacy. Link both to corporate social responsibility initiatives. (see The Next Hot Topic in CRM)
Phase 5: Internal Marketing
The momentum for change can now be siphoned off into business as usual, as supporting capabilities (organisational structures, rewards, systems, and skills) are built. Constant training, surveys and away days get in the way of work and become tiring. Whilst phase 4 kick starts the change and overcomes conflict, Phase 5 weaves internal marketing of brand values into the fabric of the organisation.
- Turn training into brand coaching, people learn better when customer knowledge relates to experience and is immediately useful
- Encourage team working with the right support eg virtual team rooms, communities of practice, (see Marketing Produce the Product Brochures - Jennifer Kirkby)
- Every department and project plan should say how brand values will be brought to life; it should be as natural as the cost/benefit analysis
- Nike employ a corporate ‘storyteller’ to compile a ‘compendium’ of ‘how things have got done around here’
Phase 6: Stakeholder Marketing
Cultural change should now be well underway so the emphasis can turn from staff to external stakeholders e.g. partners and suppliers. Whilst these groups should be involved in the previous phases this phase is specifically aimed at them.
- Choose suppliers who have similar or complimentary brand values (see Collaborate or Perish)
- Set up supplier feedback, relationships are two way.
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Strategy & Business Analyst, CMC