Anchor the change narrative on the 'why'

by Marty Nicholas

When embarking upon large change programs, businesses often get so focused on the mechanics of what they’re implementing – the new system, process or internal structure – that it is easy for them to lose sight of the reason for doing it. To embed a strong culture of customer-centricity into your sales and marketing teams, they need to be anchored in a change narrative that emphasises the ‘why’ – i.e. the tangible future improvements the change will bring for both themselves and the customer.

It’s important to remember that the catalyst for any change project is usually the recognition that something is broken somewhere in the customer ecosystem. This will be reflected by proof points of things going wrong – such as complaints, NPS data, or qualitative feedback from customers to the frontline team.

So how do you best engage marketing and sales leaders to make them commit to change?

The success of a transformation project can rise and fall on how well change is communicated to your teams. Since marketing and sales leaders are typically focused day-to-day on doing the right thing by their customers and employees, versus the company’s more intangible strategy and transformation goals, it makes sense to focus the change narrative on how it will actually lead to future improvements for customers and employees. This will have a huge impact on your ability to get buy-in from the frontline and drive their commitment to the change agenda.

What should be included in the change narrative to make it as effective as possible?

1. Prove how change will benefit the customer

To engage people in change, make it real – prove how it will benefit customers at a granular level. Understanding and articulating early what the change will mean for interactions with customers enables organisations to provide a powerful platform for engaging their people. The following questions should be answered as early as possible:
  • How will the future experience feel from a customer perspective?
  • How is this different to today?
  • What will look different if the experience was to be observed?

A practical way to bring this to life is through recorded customer feedback on dissatisfaction with the current state.

2. Gain a granular view of what change will mean for employees

To engage hearts and minds, it is beneficial to demonstrate early how the change – be it system, process or ways of working – will benefit employees. Articulate clearly how the new way of working will simplify, save time and/or improve effectiveness and results. Consider the following:
  • What is changing in terms of employee experience?
  • What roles will be affected by the change?
  • How will the new system or process make life easier and/or better for employees?
A practical way to bring this to life is through a simulated system demonstration.

3. Work bottom-up to synthesise the message

Rather than working from the top-down to cascade change messages, work from the bottom-up to engage people. Identify a group of individuals who are early adopters in new technology and ways of working, and use them as a model to evangelise the change. Consider the following:
  • Which is the right group of advocates to assist with grounding the change in both the employee and customer experience?
  • Which channels can be used to give them a voice and help them to influence their peers?
  • How can leaders work with the frontline to actively seek out and communicate customer feedback?
The narrative you use to drive momentum around a new change program will be core to its success. By engaging your people early in the ‘why’ behind the change and making it real for them, you’ll benefit from early buy-in – leading to a far more seamless implementation process.

To find out more about how enterprises can build the leadership and frontline capabilities required to transform both the employee and customer experience, read more here.

Co-authored by Marty Nicholas and Jessica Walter.

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