Published: September 18, 2018 | Comments
Your company promises some return on investment to customers: your product or service will make their lives "better," which is often stated in terms of cost reduction, new efficiencies, better data, or more engaged employees. An executive makes the purchase decision based on this promise and then passes the baton to someone else who is responsible for ensuring the ROI is met. This often requires change, and an investment of time and effort - and frankly, who has time for that?
Without strong execution here, your success with the customer may fizzle. To ensure that your customers (and ultimately your company) are set-up for success, you must account for change management within your customer experience design. In other words, do everything you can to help your customer navigate through the change proactively.
Why are people hesitant to change?
We are creatures of habit and generally prefer the status quo because that's what is familiar and comfortable. Change requires effort - at least in the short term, which is why it's so hard. Maintaining mediocrity is often easier than change. Even an otherwise well-designed customer experience can overlook the less obvious things standing in the way of change, including:
Change requires work.
If change were easy, everyone would be doing it. Making a change does require more work - at least in the short-term - with responsibility often falling on those who already have full plates. Many of these folks may ignore the extra work in hopes that it will go away, particularly if they haven't bought into "the why" behind it. Your job is to remove barriers and minimize effort so that making the change is more comfortable for the customers.
It probably hasn't been all that long since the company last pushed a new initiative, and customers may remember how this worked out for them. A prior change experience that didn't end well may have left them with a sour taste and resentment toward new initiatives. Based on experience, they may be thinking, "why bother when this is just going to fail anyway?"
Customers take comfort in the familiar because the outcomes are predictable. Asking them to change to a different, or "better" way often requires a leap of faith. What if it doesn't work? Change represents uncertainty, and as author Tim Ferriss says, "people would rather be unhappy than uncertain."
Fear of failure.
Employees want to be successful, and when faced with a change in their responsibilities, they may be concerned about their ability to adapt to the change. They must understand what the new and "better" way looks like, how it will impact their day, and how they can be successful with it. They are thinking about whether they can be successful with the change, whether someone will do it better, and they are concerned about their current skills becoming obsolete.
Too often, those tasked with making the change were not brought into the decision-making process early enough or at all. The sooner executives can get these folks involved with the decision making or change planning process, the better. This will give your company time to hear their concerns about the change and address them.
Now that we've discussed some reasons leading change can be challenging, let's talk about some strategies that help you drive change. These are all important things to consider as part of your overall customer experience strategy.
Start with why.
The groundwork for change starts at the top! Help your customer market a solid case for change across their employee base. Your customer must successfully establish and communicate "the why" around the initiative. Together with your customer, craft messaging that identifies the business problem and why solving it will make employees' lives better. To create buy-in, include both a rational and emotional case for "the why." Employees must understand what's in it for them - and you must keep anchoring back to it.
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Your job is to help your customers believe they can thrive on the other side of the change. To get them seeing this, consider breaking it up breaking it up into smaller, more digestible tasks and outcomes. Steer your customer in the right direction, then lay breadcrumbs to help the customer complete the change. The response will be more positive than if you ask them to swallow a massive change in one gulp. Help your customer create certainty with clear steps, timeframes, and outcomes. Consider setting up small, attainable steps to show customers what they are achieving. Make these achievements visible and use them as an opportunity to build confidence in those who must adopt the change.
When leading change, strong communication is imperative. Don't just let your customer check communication off their to-do list, but instead make it part of their routine. Make it easy for your customer to communicate directly and clearly with stakeholders. You can do this by creating a narrative and providing data to back it up. Encourage your customer to share this information with employees often. It's also important to listen and collect feedback, so encourage your customer to get close to the folks on the front line. They may find areas of change-related uncertainty that must be addressed. Swiftly addressing uncertainties will help stakeholders feel more confident about their ability to adapt to the change.
Identify Fixed Mindsets.
If you've read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, you know a growth mindset sees opportunity, wants to learn, tackle challenges, and fail forward. Growth mindsets tend to look at change positively. These folks persist despite setbacks and regard the effort as a path to mastery, so identify them and make them your allies! People with a fixed mindset stand in the way of your success. They tend to seek the comfortable, don't apply effort, make excuses, and give up easily. These are the folks that will feel threatened with change. Find the fixed mindsets in your group of stakeholders within the customer's organization and stay close to them! Along with some excuses, you may receive some valuable feedback that you can then use to help get them on board with the change.
Stay the Course.
According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School, "in the middle, everything looks like a failure." The middle is where the hard work happens - and it will be difficult at times. Your customer is uncomfortable, the end goal may seem distant and/or unattainable, or your customer may encounter resistance from employees causing them to question whether this initiative is worth it. Stay the course! Anchor back to "the why" often to help keep the end goal in mind.
It's essential to share progress, data, and results - and make it easy for your customer to share this with their organization. This is a great time to review what's working for you and what's not, then adapt your approach - and of course, celebrate individual accomplishments as well. Ultimately, you want to help your customer, and their employees look like heroes.
It's the sum of all interactions that help a customer shape their opinion of your company. This includes how you influence change and help them navigate through it, so build this into your customer experience to set up them up for success.