• Ivaylo Yorgov

Starting a CX revolution: a user's manual (2)


Getting support for CX initiatives means scoping, igniting, and managing the evolution towards a truly customer-centric organization. It is a matter of doing change management well.  In a series of posts, I offer you different perspectives to managing change and will give ideas for applying them within your daily work. These perspectives are inspired by what the thought-leaders in the field of change management know and have shared with us.


In a previous post we adapted the framework of Dan and Chip Heath from "Switch. How to change things when change is hard." to Customer Experience management. Here, we'll have a look at what Jonah Berger, one of the most prominent researchers in the field of word of mouth, advises us to do to 'change anyone's mind' (in The Catalyst).



"Everyone has something they want to change. ... But change is hard. We persuade and cajole and push, but even after all work, often nothing moves." (The Catalyst, p.4)


Faced with this rather depressing reality, how is a CX manager to incite a change in this organization towards customer centricity? How is a CX manager to get support for customer experience initiatives?  Here is what doesn't work:

  • I briefly mentioned it in this post, but it warrants repetition - simply providing knowledge doesn't work. Had this been the case there would be no smokers in this world we would all do sports and eat apples.

  • Pushing people to change their minds doesn't work either. When faced with a push people in most cases just push back - at the end of the day, no one likes to be pressured. Few things change by coercion.


The roadblocks to success

Jonah Berger offers a fresh perspective towards change: "Sometimes change doesn't require more horsepower. Sometimes we just need to unlock the parking brake." (p10.)  Instead of pushing and informing and convincing, maybe we are better off thinking about the roadblocks that prevent people from changing and work with and around them. Maybe it's better to eliminate obstacles to ensure a smooth journey, rather than forcing the engine to go full power. Here are the roadblocks Berger identifies:

  • Reactance: an action has an equal and opposite re-action. You push people, people push back.

  • Endowment: we like it easy so we stick with what we are doing. Unless there is a terribly good reason for it, we tend to do what we've always done.

  • Distance: we like to work within our zones of acceptance. New information that is within it can land well but pushed too far it has no chance of success.

  • Uncertainty: if we are not sure in the outcome, we are unlikely to act. 

  • Corroborating Evidence: we need more than anecdotal evidence; we need many people to show us or tell us something to start believing it.


It is very likely that people you are trying to convince to start a CX initiative or to get buy in from face the same roadblocks. 

  • Often times we push too much: we oblige people to care about NPS by putting it in their performance evaluation; we force service reps to follow scripts; we insist and insist in front of the board that we need this CX initiative.

  • Other times the situation is just not ripe for a change, and I've seen this very often in companies. We can also call it 'the curse of success'. If what you are doing works, why change it? To future-proof your success could be one reason; the fact that no one stays ahead for too long another. Yet, the road to CX excellence is often blocked by our own success.

  • Another reason hindering the success of CX practices within companies is what may hinder the success of any other initiative - the 'too much, too soon' syndrome. As an aside, novice runners know this very well - going for too many miles from the very beginning is the major reason for injuries; basically your body is pushing back on you. Sometimes we have a very clear idea of how the full CX program might look like and we enthusiastically share this vision with others. If it's too new for them though we are likely to get rejected simply because it's too much for people to take in.

  • Uncertainty is probably the most common and easily identifiable reason why CX initiatives don't take off. Given that there are probably hundreds of things C-level execs can change within a company, would they bother with something with murky chances of success?

  • And finally, the proverb "one swallow does not a summer make" sums it up pretty well. You cannot allow to be alone on the quest to build a customer-centric organization. 


Navigating the roadblocks

What is one to do when faced with these roadblocks? How to unlock the parking break?

To tackle the 'Reactance' roadblock do your best to "allow for agency". The goal here is to give people a choice; Jonah Berger puts it well - "...let people pick the path. Let them choose how they get where you are hoping they'll go." (p.29) Also, whenever possible, opt for questions instead of answers. The answers are almost always fairly obvious if you pose the right question. And questions have an added benefit - they expand people's perspectives and you may actually end up having more ideas than in the beginning.  Another good advice for tackling Reactance is to highlight the gap but I'd add an important caveat - show don't tell. Can you have a customer talking about his experience while you are pitching your idea for example? Can you send your colleagues a single review a customer have given you every day? Bring the real life into the board room and real life will serve you well.

The 'Endowment' roadblock exists by and large because of loss aversion - we value what we possess more than what we don't, hence we are more afraid to lose than excited to gain something. And because beliefs are like possessions, the same applies to our minds. We dread the loss of something we believe in. How to work around this?  One powerful action you can take is to make clear the cost of inaction. Framing things in terms of losses is very powerful. What will happen if you don't act on improving CX? Will you lose this customer in 6 months? Will the customer lifetime value decrease by 20%? You can figure this out; once you do - use it to create a sense of urgency.

The 'Distance' roadblock go small and 'ask for less'. Remember that the Distance roadblock exists because there is a large gap between your point of view and how the person you are convincing to do something sees the world. Also remember that there is always an overlap between you two, no matter how far you are. Use this 'movable middle' to find common ground. And don't ask for much - ask for a pilot, for a start, for a small change today, and then for another one in a week's time. Small is beautiful.

Uncertainty is often times the biggest roadblock. Let's use the right name for it, shall we - it's fear. Fear that we might lose something or not succeed. How to help people manage this roadblock? One thing we can do is give the option of a trial. By now this is a very popular way of managing uncertainty, given that you can get a demo or a short-term subscription to any piece of software. In essence, anything that helps people try something without committing to it helps.

And finally, there is strength in numbers, and that's what helps work around the 'Corroborating Evidence' roadblock. If you can show that a similar company has done something similar in a similar situation, that will be golden. Or look for examples internally - has a colleague of yours done something that improved CX significantly? How can you celebrate this success? How can you tie success within the company with customer success? 



Where does this leave us?


Simply providing more information doesn't work for changing people's behavior. Neither does pushing them to change. 


Jonah Berger provides a fresh perspective: sometimes all we need to do is remove the roadblocks to success and people will move in the direction are envisioning. As CX professionals, we will do well to get rid of the roadblocks listed above.


Reactance, Endowment, Distance, Uncertainty and Corroborating Evidence are all barriers in the way of change that we can work with (or around). I hope this inspires you to act to get them out of the day.

My best wishes for a great day ahead!