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  • Writer's pictureIvaylo Yorgov

Starting a CX revolution: a user's manual (4)

Making business impact through pivots in customer experience depends on our capabilities in these three domains: creating value, maximizing impact, and change management.


1. What creates value for the customer and for the business?

Keywords: Improvement and Contribution

What is important here is to understand what makes customers tick and how well is our current solution delivering on this. I'm personally a firm believer in the Job To Be Done approach to uncover what creates value for customers.

As to what creates value for the business, my answer is always "That which contributes to the progress in life customers want to make."


2. How to increase the value for the customer and for the business?

Keywords: Trade off, Prediction, Scenario-based thinking

What is crucial here is our ability to devise and select the initiatives that will have the highest impact on CX and on business results alike. Data analytics and modeling, when done well, can help estimate the potential return on each initiative and on the combination of them.


3. How to implement CX impact initiatives within our business?

Keyword: Buy-in and Change management

Now that we know what customers want and what can we do to deliver more of it or to deliver it better, we need to make these initiatives work. This is mostly a matter of doing change management skillfully.


In a series of posts, I offer you insights from people who know how to do change management well. So far, we borrowed ideas from Dan and Chip Heath ("Switch"), Jonah Berger ("The Catalyst"), and John Kotter (A Sense of Urgency).

Here we'll explore how behavioural design can help us become better in implementing our CX initiatives. To do this, we'll enlist the help of Morten Munster's book "I'm afraid Debbie From Marketing Has Left for the Day" (quite an odd title, I know)


What is behavioural design?

Typically, to change what someone does, we first give them information and expect the behavior to follow. We tell our partners in life that we want them to wash the dishes and we expect that they will start doing it. We tell our colleagues that they need to communicate more proactively with clients and wait for this to happen.

The reason behavioural design is insightful and important is that it follows the exact opposite principle: it aims to change the behaviour first; our new behaviour then changes our attitude.

The goal of the behavioural design practitioner is to create a choice architecture that encourages people to go in the desired direction; thinking would then follow the behaviour and update as well. So instead of telling our colleagues to be more proactive, the behavioural design paradigm would rather look for ways to embed this in the daily work life.

What inspires this line of thinking is that neither information, nor motivation, are enough for people to change their behavior. This is something we already met with when we explored both Dan and Chip Heath, and Jonah Berger's ideas. Derek Sivers puts it well: "As American entrepreneur Derek Sivers notes: "If more information was the answer, we would all be billionaires with perfect abs." If information and motivation were enough, we would all be achieving our high hopes and dreams.

The reality is that change is much, much harder than that. So what is one to do to change their own and others' behaviours?


The 4 steps of change: the behavioural design way

Coming up with ideas for inciting change in the behavioural design paradigm is a straightforward process:

Step 1. Define the target behaviour

Step 2. Find the barriers

Step 3. Design the solution

Step 4. Test the solution

I'm sure you know a lot of this already and presenting the process doesn't tell us how to design a solution in real life. To make this more tangible, we'll dig much deeper into the advice Morten Munster gives us for designing the solution.

But before that, I feel compelled to say a couple of words about the definition of the target behaviour. The cliche “If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else.” is perhaps one of the most valuable secrets of success hiding in plain sight. Being single-minded is a virtue when it comes to achieving results, in this case changing one's behaviour. Great execution of actions and persistence are absolutely vital for achieving success - there is no doubt about it. What I feel is less widely considered is that we need to be very deliberate in what exactly are the trying to succeed in.

Think about great sport champions. Do they try their luck in different sports before becoming great in what they do? No - they stick relentlessly to what they do and importantly, they are very deliberate in their training. They don't train for the sake of training; they know all too well what exactly are they going to work on today and tomorrow, and where do they hope it is going to lead them. They don't just run 10k every day with the same speed and the same intensity they did the day before; they vary their training deliberately.

All of this is just to say that unless we are very clear about the behaviour we are trying to sway people towards, we will not achieve our goal. Solutions are contingent on the problems they solve. Define where you want to go before embarking on the journey. Then understand why aren't people already doing what you want them to do. Once you know both what you want people to do and what's stopping them, you can proceed to find a solution.


Solutions inspired by behavioural design

How does a behavioural design solution for change look like? There are 4 things to think about:

1. Is it simple enough?

Our brains are efficiency-seeking machines. Because brains consume a lot of energy and maintaining a body also requires a constant influx of it, one of our primary imperatives as people is the preservation of energy. This means that anything we can do on autopilot, we will do on autopilot. It also means that we dread expanding energy. Anytime we face friction, we try to avoid it; anytime something goes smoothly, we try to get more of it.

What follows from this is that if we want people to change, we need to make it very simple for them. The less energy we spend on implementing the new behaviour, the higher the chance for

it to stick.

"In the real world, structural simplicity beats motivation every time." Morten Münster

How to simplify things? Munster gives four ideas.

1.1 You can remove sources of friction that block the desired behaviour. The world is full of such examples. If it's difficult for people to find recycling bins, they are unlikely to adopt the practice. If it's difficult for people to get access to a park, they are less likely to pick up running, and so on.

1.2 The second thing we can do to simplify things is to add friction to the unwanted behaviour. If we don't want people to smoke, we might want to increase cigarette price or make certain areas strictly non-smoking ones.

1.3 A third thing to do is to "turn "no choice" into "our choice"." Münster, Morten. I'm Afraid Debbie From Marketing Has Left for the Day (Kindle Location 1687). This tactic is the mirror opposite of the previous one - you try to make it difficult for people not to do an action. And finally,

1.4 Pick the right moment. There are certain moments in which the behaviour you are trying to model is very prominent in people's minds. This is your moment to act! Crises are such openings; new beginnings as well, like moving to a new home or changing jobs. Basically, any time in which there is a change in one domain is an excellent opportunity to change the behaviour in others as well.

Can you make it a habit?

Making something a habit means by and large making it automatic. But what exactly is the underlying structure of a habit? What makes it so powerful? This is a well-researched subject: have a look for example at The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal, or Atomic Habits by James Clear.

All researchers agree that habits have three distinct parts: a trigger (or a cue), an action, and a reward. This applies not just to habits but for all automatic behaviour - think about driving a car or a bicycle, your routine in the morning, or what you do during stressful presentations.

The trigger starts the habit loop. App notifications and emails are wonderful examples of triggers.

The action is the habit itself - in the app example, this is checking what the notification is about. In simple terms, you get a notification from Facebook, you open Facebook.

The reward is what actually builds the habit. Now, if you do something and don't feel good after that, your brain will either learn to avoid it or at the very least, to ignore it. It is the reward that glues together the trigger and the action. By and large, your brain is 'thinking': Oh, look, object A! Experience tells me that if I do B, something good will happen. (Brain does B). Ah, it was great indeed! I'll make a note to keep doing B when I encounter object A!

Now, the big question is how to help people form habits. It should be clear by now that you can act on both ends. The more you can link a cue with an action, the better. This requires constant reminders. The biological reasoning goes like this: your thoughts, emotions, actions, everything is activation of neural networks in your brain. What's important here is that what fires together, wires together - the more frequently a network activates, the easier it gets to activate it. So what you need to build a habit, on one hand, is repetition.

We can also work on the other side of the equation and manage the rewards. The more we reward specific behaviour, the easier it gets to form a habit - we also call this positive reinforcement and is also the reason positive feedback is crucial for people to grow. Importantly, look for ways to provide the same reward for a different behaviour. The brain looks for correlations - if you do this consistently, it will unlearn the old behaviour and learn the new one; et viola, change happened.

When forming habits it is crucial to go small. Do not try to change everything in people's lives. Remember, change begets change - often what we need to do it just kick-start the process. Start with something people can accomplish easily and build on it.

Make it memorable

Memory is a very, very malleable thing. Researchers have shown that memories can actually be implanted in people's minds, Inception-style. Knowing how memory works can help you change people's behaviour.

One of the most well-know facts about our experiences and memory is the peak-end rule. It states that out of a long experience, we will remember its peak (positive or negative) and its end; the rest, your brain reasons, it useless and can be forgotten. For example, after a medical procedure we are most likely to remember the peak of the pain, and the how the end of the procedure felt - we will then base our entire evaluation of the experience on these two data points.

We can use this knowledge to nudge people towards a different behaviour; here's Munster's advice:

  • Get the bad out of the way. The logic is that you avoid ending on a negative note.

  • Group the bad, spread the good. If there are three negative things that need to happen, get them over with all at once. If you also have three positive things, spread them throughout the whole experience and leave one for the end.

  • Of course, end on a very positive note.

Another way to make something memorable is to involve as many of the senses as possible. to give but one example: what's the reason for the relatively clear idea of how Christmas smells like? Well, our sense of smell is a much more direct relation to the emotional centers of our brains compared to, say, vision or hearing. Our sense of smell is just much more emotional than our other senses. Now add to this the fact that it's much easier to form memories if there is an emotional element to the situation. There you have it - smells support the formation of memories by tapping on our emotions much more directly than the other senses. By engaging the totality of our senses we will help people form memories, which will in turn (remember habits) help change their behaviour.

Utilize the power of the human touch

To be honest, this is a point every researcher studying change management, behavioural change, or influencing people makes. There is a good reason for that - it works - but it's also starting to sound chilched. So let's cover this quickly, keeping in mind that the power this holds deserves much more space.

There are two important points I'd like to share with you. On one hand, whenever possible, try to tell people whose behaviour you are trying to change that others are already doing this. Stick to a positive message if you can (like 80% of people already do X) - negative ones don't work quite as well as positive ones (like 4 out of 5 people don't do X and because of that Y happens).

The second important point is to personalize the message as much as you can. This applies to the previous advice as well. The 'Others are already doing this' achieve the highest impact when 'others' are a very relevant group, say your friends, or your teammates (as opposed to people in the country or people in the same company).

Personalization also means addressing people whose behaviour we are trying to change directly and by their name. This puts people on the spot and makes them accountable for the outcomes. For the power of addressing people directly, I recommend you to check the description of the famous Kitty Genovese case.


There is a lot more going on in the field of behavioural change, so I can only encourage you to invest in understanding more. I hope this outline inspires you to think of change management in terms of behavioural design and to explore the possible solutions. The principles apply for managing customer experience and for making a shift towards customer-centric culture alike. Try them out.

My best wishes for a great day ahead!

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