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8 Steps for Customer Experience Change Management

Published: September 2, 2014 | By: Annette Franz

[The original post appeared on the CX Journey blogsite on August 26, 2014.]

How well are your change management efforts going?

I recently came across Dr. Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change. The steps come from his 1996 book, Leading Change, which outlines the eight critical success factors for change management.

As you can imagine, this process was intriguing to me, since it applies quite nicely to the challenges we face as we struggle to implement changes to/for the customer experience within our organizations. It got me thinking about whether I captured all of these steps in my recent post on change management. I think I got the general essence of the process, but I couldn’t agree more with his steps I missed.

Let’s take a look. Here are the steps, straight from the Kotter International website, with my thoughts added between the lines for each one.

Step 1: Establishing a Sense of Urgency

Help others see the need for change and they will be convinced of the importance of acting immediately.

I think this is a critical component for change management for the customer experience. Getting leadership buy-in and helping them understand that the sooner the focus is placed on the customer experience, the sooner the business will benefit is an everyday challenge for customer experience professionals. At the same time, employee buy-in is also critical, as employees will be impacted by the changes and will be the ones who deliver the experience. Don’t forget to keep the organization as a whole informed about the changes – why they’re important, when and how they’ll happen, and how they’ll impact employees, customers, and the company in general.

Step 2: Creating the Guiding Coalition

Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort, and encourage the group to work as a team.

This is where your governance structure comes into play. Changing the organization’s DNA to be more customer-centric is not a project 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 effort. Without the core team, the steering committee with both executive sponsors and cross-functional champions, the customer focus won’t go far.

Step 3: Developing a Change Vision

Create a vision to help direct the change effort, and develop strategies for achieving that vision.

Develop a customer experience vision that will be inspirational and aspirational; it will outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help develop your strategy and choose future courses of action.

Step 4: Communicating the Vision for Buy-In

Make sure as many as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy.

Communication – early, often, and ongoing – is a critical tool to gain buy-in and to ensure success for any customer experience effort. There are many different ways to ensure that you communicate the vision and to make sure that everyone has a clear line of sight to what needs to be done; one of my favorite is the journey map.

Step 5: Empowering Broad-Based Action

Remove obstacles to change, change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision, and encourage risk-taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions.

Are your employees unencumbered and empowered to do what’s right for your customers?

Step 6: Generating 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.

We know that winning over executives (and others) and getting their buy-in often requires the use of skunkworks projects that demonstrate those short-term wins. These projects are used to build the business case, which is often built upon quick wins to show not only what can be done but also your commitment and persistence to achieving some outcome. As change is implemented, further quick wins may be required. And I couldn’t agree more with recognizing and rewarding employees for successes, not just during this quick wins phase but always.

Step 7: 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, and finally reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents.

I have mentioned before that the customer experience is a journey. So are organizational change efforts, as part of that journey. They go hand in hand.

Step 8: Incorporating Changes into the Culture

Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success, and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.

In order to implement and to sustain the changes you’ll make in order to shift to a customer-centric, customer-focused organization, the values, the purpose, and the vision must be ingrained into the DNA of the organization. That requires that policies, processes, language, hiring, training, and all other efforts and decisions the organization makes must be based on what’s best for the customer. That customer focus becomes an organizational discipline, not a department. Everyone’s job ultimately contributes to the customer experience; make sure there is a clear line of sight. And continue to reiterate that.

How well does your organization do in adhering to these steps when implementing change? Which of these are a challenge that you must still overcome?

If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies. -Unknown


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