Today’s business world is very volatile as different facets clamour for attention leaving leadership with a crisis of choice. And so choices we must make but as the saying goes ‘You are free to make whatever choice you want, but you are not free from the consequences of the choice.’ Organizational leaders must make the tough decisions to steer their ship in the right direction however difficult the terrain. In the quest to make the right calls many organizations must search for innovative ideas to add to their existing products and services to make them more appealing.
Business thought leaders warn that in our anxiety to improve our performance we must be careful not to confuse efficient innovation with pointless novelty. Efficient innovation will render your current offering more valuable through delivering differentiating relevant experiences. In contrast, a pointless novelty may appear to be an innovation, but it does not accomplish its goal of benefitting the customer.
Many argue that no transformation is easy as it refers to a profound change. Deborah Rowland states in her book ‘Still moving’, “Change is the disturbance of repeating patterns.” In other words, it is a disturbing process since it usually involves resistance due to known and unknown loyalties. If it were easy we would all effortlessly make the shift from “how we stand now” to “how we want to stand”. A plethora of failed Change projects lends credence to this assertion. Cosmetic giant Revlon failed in its attempt to roll out an ERP system after its merger with Elizabeth Arden. The crisis sent Revlon stock into a tailspin that in turn led to a suit by the company’s stockholders. When British telecom provider Vodafone consolidated its CRM systems onto a Siebel platform, they ran into problems: not all the customer accounts migrated properly. They ended up with a £4.6 million fine from the British telecom regulator and a blame game leading to a lengthy litigation battle.
There is a good reason why we resist change, it happens outside our comfort zone. But take heart it is not all doom and gloom, we must be aware of the risk in not adopting the right approach and therefore the need to plan carefully and make the right calls. Thought leaders posit that organizations are living vibrant entities birthed and so are rightly referred to as organisms that breathe, grow, and evolve. They develop a culture while growing similar to how our personality is cultivated. Therefore, organizations are not merely soulless entities with a tax ID number, but rather living vibrant systems that form their substance from the day they were conceived. Armed with the potential mishaps in failed change initiatives we must choose our battles carefully adopt the methods and strategies that will guarantee a successful change journey. A few pointers worth noting are; acknowledging the need for change, acknowledging what is, planning for the change, rolling out, and embedding the change.
Acknowledging the need for change
Today’s business exists in a fast-moving environment where the pace of change is faster than our rate of learning. Anyone expecting a change in this trend is likely to be sorely disappointed. The world is changing every day: the population is changing, customer trends are changing, technology is changing and the economy is changing. Businesses that fail to embrace change will be out of touch and unable to compete under current trading conditions. To keep pace with this trend, not only must we be quick to identify change levers, but also we need an all-inclusive approach to change. The chances for transformation are greater if founders (parents), leadership (guardians), and the majority of employees (family) are behind it. Why is this crucial? This is so that the intention (clarity, acceptance, motivation) will fuel the shift.
Spiros (a CX consultant based in Greece) argues when it comes to Customer Experience make sure you have a “critical mass” acknowledging and desiring that need for change. A useful source would be data and case studies from other companies or even competitors, this is what will enable you to make a compelling case for organizational change. Make sure the change you are advocating aligns with the values of the organization you serve, get your messaging right. If it values profits talk about ROI and CX, if it values public image and PR talk about the effect CX can have in creating and sharing stories, and if it values hierarchy talk about how the leadership can focus less on micromanagement by adjusting the role of the team.
According to Forbes, Change that results from the adoption of new technology is common in most organizations. Without change, business leaders still would be dictating correspondence to secretaries, editing their words, and sending them back to the drawing board, wasting time for all involved. Also worthy of note is that customers’ needs are evolving, as the world evolves customer needs change and grow, creating new demand for new types of products and services. This opens up new areas of opportunity for companies to meet those needs.
Acknowledging what is
Every change initiative will have its unique set of conditions that impact the organization, environment, culture, jobs, and individuals. A good starting point in any organization is to analyze the situation, look closely at the individuals as well as the total organizational environment in which they operate. You may apply Gap Analysis tools to aid your effort in understanding the current situation (as is). One of the most difficult tasks in the change process is how to manage individuals. You will need to determine how to manage individuals’ perceptions of the conditions and their responses to them to restore stability and to help move them towards acceptance. When it comes to CX you can use a combination of tools to identify perception gaps. These include internal questionnaires to the whole team, ask one or more questions to customers to identify a potential perception gap, conduct interviews, and so on. The goal is to find ways to map the ‘as is’ based on the different perspectives.
You must understand your organizational patterns when trying to design your CX transformation. Before trying to change your current situation make sure you stay with it, honour it, and accept it rather than criticize it before you move on.
Planning for the change
Two things of importance here are first, in considering a major shift such as Customer Experience culture, it is not advisable to simply delegate change. What you should rather do is try and co-create it with the people who have acknowledged the need for change (your stakeholder mapping will be the sieving mechanism to help you identify your ‘allies’). Tap into the collective intelligence of the group and ask people to join in contributing or at least being heard in designing the next phase. Secondly, the principle that less is more would be of great value to you, rather than designing many different initiatives albeit with some turning out successfully, design fewer more impactful interventions while providing the space for processing reactions and inputs.
A few recommended steps in planning your CX change (courtesy Kotter’s 8-step model) include; firstly establishing a sense of urgency – help others see the need for change and they will be convinced of the importance of acting immediately, get leadership and employee buy-in keep them in the loop as they will be impacted by the changes, the next step is to create the guiding coalition – assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort, and encourage the group to work as a team. Without the core team, the steering committee with both executive sponsors and cross-functional champions, the customer focus won’t go far, the third step is to develop a Change Vision here you create a vision to help direct the change effort and develop strategies for achieving that vision, it will serve as a guide to help develop your strategy and choose future courses of action the fourth step is to Communicating the Vision for buy-In, make sure as many as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy.
Communicate – early, often, and ongoing to ensure that everyone has a clear line of sight to what needs to be done. The fifth step is empowering broad-based action by removing obstacles to change, change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision, and encouraging risk-taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions (well this can be hard to learn the politics of your organization). The sixth step is generating a short-term wins plan for achievements that can easily be made visible, follow-through with those achievements, and recognize and reward employees who were involved. I recall very vividly a treat given us by our project manager years ago and the telling effect it had on winning the loyalty of the whole team!
The seventh step is never letting up, use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision, also hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision customer experience is a journey. So are organizational change efforts, as part of that journey. They go hand in hand. Finally, incorporate changes into the culture articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success, and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession for continuity.
This is the phase where you operationalize your plan. You need to be tactful here to avoid any distraction from the plan. There is always the lure to put things on hold because of other priorities. The fact is that it wasn’t merely about the crises, rather at a deeper level the organization was not ready for that shift. This has to be respected advisedly otherwise any attempt for change will simply fall through.
Before your roll out you will need to put in place a systematic method for gathering feedback. Bear in mind that your main focus is the (external) customer however feedback from employees will add weight to the process if you recall the outside-in focus of CX, note that your successful engagement with the customer leading to great customer experiences hinges on great employee experiences. To ensure the integrity of your feedback system you need to focus on feedback from multiple channels along the customer journey: it’s important to use a robust platform that consolidates and analyses all feedback, delivering insightful data. The capability and features in your customer experience platform should map back to your CX strategy – so try to draw up a list of ‘must haves’ before any major investments such as choosing a vendor to ensure you have the technology to realize your aims. Following confirmation from your customers (sample), you are now ready for your full launch.
Embedding the change
You are now ready to embed your change into the organization’s DNA creating a new reality. There is no right or wrongs with organizational transformations. Each organization (along with its members) decides its future and fate. Implementing change is never easy however change programmes are part of the life of any organization and customer experience as a driving force in today’s business environment is a major change trigger. Customer Experience professionals have their work cut out for them in this regard, the key is to provide leadership in building a culture that focuses on the customer, getting this right, and navigating the dynamics of your organization can be very rewarding.
|The Writer is the Managing Consultant at Capability Trust Limited a People and Learning Organisation serving the market with Talent Acquisition and Management, Leadership Development, HR Outsourcing, and General HR Advisory, Training, and consulting services. He can be reached on 059 175 7205,|