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Change. It’s inevitable.
And it’s hard. Many – as high as 70% of – change initiatives fail.
But don’t let that stat scare you. And don’t let it change your attitude about what lies ahead. Don’t let that become a self-fulfilling prophecy! You know you need to make the change. You know that it will take a Herculean effort. You can do this! And I’ll help with a few tips.
Your transformation efforts are much more likely to be successful when you incorporate some of the most basic tenets of change management. John Kotter’s got his eight principles of change management, but I’m going to expand on those a bit and put things into customer experience management terms. There’s definitely overlap; after all, as you start to think about the strategies and steps involved in customer experience management, you realize that it is a change management process in and of itself.
Here are the fundamental steps – or pillars – to successful customer experience change management.
- Understand the current state. You can’t transform something you don’t understand. In order to really learn about the current state and to identify and help prioritize what to fix/change, do two things: (1) listen to employees and to customers, and (2) map their journeys. These are the two greatest tools in your customer experience management toolbox.
- Create a vision for change. Once you know what needs to be changed, you need to define what the future state will look like. Your change vision is a statement or image of some desired future state, i.e., what the company and the experience will look like after you change, along with details about why this future state is desirable. It will give employees a sense of the magnitude of the change and the overall impact on the organization, on themselves, and on the customer. On the heels of your vision, develop the plan for how it will be executed.
- Build your business case. Answer the questions: Why is this change necessary? And what impact will it have on the business if we make this change? Identify your objectives first and then align the business outcomes and benefits tied to each. Your outcomes may be customer retention, account growth, new business through referrals, culture change, etc. Benefits might include cost savings and other efficiencies. Building your business case is not only about the why but also about the what: teach executives who might not understand the connection between focusing on culture, employee experience, and customer experience and increasing revenue and profits. You’ll have to appeal to both the rational and the emotional sides of their brains. And establish the burning platform.
- Get executive commitment. If company leadership isn’t on board with the change, then forget it; it won’t happen. You might have localize or departmentalized efforts, but those will be silo’d efforts that translate to silo’d experiences for employees and customers. Without executive commitment, you’ll never get resources – human, capital, or other – to execute on your customer experience strategy. And while we’re talking about executives, they must also all be aligned. If they’re not on the same page about the change initiatives, then it’ll be a challenge to successfully execute.
- Establish your success metrics. You’ve defined your objectives and your desired outcomes. But how will you know when you’ve achieved them? What does success look like? How will you measure success? Define your success metrics early so that you can track progress over time.
- Develop a governance structure. Changing the organization’s DNA to be more customer-centric is not a journey for one person to undertake; this is an organization-wide effort. As such, the governance structure is critical to the foundation of any customer experience management effort. Without an executive sponsor, an executive committee, the core program team, and cross-functional champions, your transformation won’t get very far.
- Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. I can’t say this enough. Communicating your vision is an important piece of change management. If no one knows what it is or why it’s taking place, then people start to ignore it; they certainly don’t want to be a part of it. Of course, the key is to communicate the right information. Tell the change story. Early. And often. Let them know what is changing, why it’s changing, how it will impact them and what they do (differently) on a daily basis, and how they will be involved. Celebrate milestones and successes. Keep communicating.
- Involve and empower employees. Get their buy-in and commitment. There’s a great quote from Benjamin Franklin that’s so fitting here: Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn. Get employees involved – early in the process. When that happens, they feel like they’re a part of it. Don’t just force change on your employees; give them some ownership in the change. They’ll be more accepting of it, without a doubt.
- Model the behavior. It’s important that, once executives are committed to the change effort, they lead by example, to model the change that they wish to see from their employees; if they don’t live the change, why should employees?! If your CEO doesn’t demonstrate commitment to the transformation by being the role model for how to deliver a great experience, it won’t happen. Often times, some quick wins will help to drive the point home that this change is real – and it’s happening.
- Stand up a group of culture ambassadors. Put together a group of people who exemplify the change you envision. They already live the change. They get it. Find ways to not only involve them in the change initiatives but to also be ambassadors for the change: model it, sell it, champion it.
- Build on initial successes; reinforce and keep going. Change fatigue can set in at any time because there’s always some initiative within the organization that pulls people away from what they are doing on a daily basis. Keep people informed of the progress being made. Celebrate each milestone. Recognize, reward, and reinforce the right behaviors, the progress, and the commitment of your employees. Be relentless, and just keep going until the outcome has been achieved.
- < b>Monitor and adjust. Once you’ve implemented the change, once you’re in the “future state,” your job is not done. The customer experience is a journey, as are your customer experience management and improvement efforts. The business evolves. New products are launched. Customers’ needs change. New competitors enter the marketplace. Continuous improvement is the name of the game.
Having problems getting adoption for your latest change initiatives? Avoid change fatigue and the skepticism that comes with change feeling like the flavor of the month. You must have a vested interest in getting the process right, in sticking with the journey and not giving up because it’s hard. No one ever said this was going to be easy; nothing worth doing ever is!
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -Thomas Edison