by Lior Arussy, Strativity Group

“Our vision is to become customer centric,” the CEO announced. Happily, he was presenting a set of slides describing the “beauty and importance of loving the customers and our commitment to roll this program to all employees in the next 24 months.” The reactions from his lieutenants, though, were not as enthusiastic as he’d hoped. Deep down, they were not committed; the change he sought did not resonate.

The real issue was not the principle of becoming customer centric. Some executives were simply offended that he did not think they were already customer centric. They honestly believed they were. Other executives saw the new program as a bad judgment on their past performance. They worked hard to achieve the target financial numbers and did so successfully. The new program implied that they had done the wrong thing: not a welcome message by any stretch of the imagination. Neither group welcomed the change.

The Current State of Change

Ever since the early days of change management, change was treated as an event. The prevailing thought was that, to assist an organization in changing, one should follow a process, beginning with a clear vision to skills development and tools enablement, to ensure the change would take root and become a second nature in the organization. This model was applied to new programs, business models and technology implementations. A variety of approaches were utilized, but all followed the same line
of thought: change is about a turbulent event with periods of stability in between. Organizations need to learn to absorb those stormy moments between their “quiet waters” existence.

The speed of technological evolution created structural changes in business models, communication channels and customers-vendor relationships that required a new paradigm. Change is no longer defined as penetrating events interrupting an otherwise quiet existence. It is a constant series of events taking place daily. It is a reality of life. It is, therefore, challenging every organization to shift from change as an event led by change agents to change as a part of life led by everyone. Change is no longer an occasional occurrence. It is now the new skill everyone must possess.

Rethinking Change

With a foundational change of accepting change as part of daily life, we ought to rethink the approach of equipping the organization to handle it. Even the term change management will no longer be appropriate.

To many employees, the word “change” implies a guilty verdict on their past performance. They will react negatively as they will feel it is a threat. The voice of judgment emanates from the term. No one

will appreciate a bad verdict on their past performance, especially if that performance had been praised and rewarded in the past.

“Management” means top down approach. It suggests a program cooked-up by few people at the top of the pyramid to push down employees’ throats. Needless to say, its rejection will be loud and clear, and the pace of change will slow. Today’s traditional change management results in, at best, reluctant participation and, at worst, incremental tweaks that do not amount to the original vision.

It’s time to look at change differently.

When we lead customer centric programs, we carefully shy away from talking about change. We follow the 4-S approach to frame and lead the evolution.

The Story- We need to build a narrative that stays true to our core: the customer and why they need us. The customer is the cause that unifies everyone in the organization. Without the customer, no one is employed. Oftentimes, we focus is on what will not change: a commitment to relevant value to customers. Instead, what needs to evolve are the techniques we use. The framing story is always about the customer as the cause for our performance.

The Solution – Once the customer is at the core of our work, we ought to examine the solution we provide. Because of the pace at which smartphones change, we recognize that customers seek new excitement faster. Yesterday’s exciting solution is today’s boring one. We need to strive to deliver exciting, emotionally engaging solutions quickly. Nothing was wrong with yesterday’s solution. It just belongs to another era. The expiration date is shorter.

The Skills – Along with the need to change the solution, we ought to evolve the skills of our people. Today’s skills are different and require upgrade. As solutions evolve, we upgrade skills to ensure employees have the tools and authority required to respond to their ever changing-customers.

The Sight – Employees and customers must know where this is all going. A clear vision of the ideal should be clearly painted and articulated. Often times, organizations do not evolve because they do not understand where they need to go. A clear picture of the future will help accelerate in the right direction.

Change management ought to become cause evolution. We need to evolve every day. When employees embrace the cause of the customers, they internalize it, own it and become change agents. Unlike top down change management, they lead the charge and often surpass their management with performance beyond their imagination.

Working with a large auto manufacturer, we focused on the customer as the cause and followed the 4-S approach. We challenged employees to delight customers. In the first 12 months, over 5000 stories of delight emerged: all lead by employees, not by management. They were not changing; they were
merely expressing their own evolution. They felt that they were given the permission to do what’s right. These stories became the authentic expression of the brand. Welcome to cause evolution. Welcome everyone leading the charge.

Lior Arussy is the president of Strativity Group, a customer experience transformation firm. Follow Lior @LiorStrativity

Lior ArussyLior Arussy
One of world’s authorities on customer experiences and customer-centric transformation, Lior Arussy delivers results. His strategic framework converts organizations from product to customer centricity. Arussy is the founder of Strativity Group, a global customer experience research and consulting firm which helps clients create delightful customer experiences and execute profitable customer strategies. Arussy grew the company from his garage to a multi-national professional firm with offices around the world. Among his clients are FedEx, Sage, Mercedes-Benz, The New York Times, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Honeywell, Royal Mail, and Walmart.com. His work has impacted 250 million customers and 400,000 employees in 21 countries. Arussy is the author of 5 books on customer experience, employee engagement and experience innovation. Stratvity Group has been voted 2 years in a row as Inc.5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America. His accomplishments have been recognized by press and analyst at ABC, CBC, Bloomberg TV, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The Times of London, Forrester Research, and Gartner.

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