Ensuring that customers or clients have consistently great experiences in their interactions with your business is a sure path to increased profitability.
Sounds simple right? And it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
The way a business performs when it comes to CX is a reflection of its culture. Those doing it well, inevitably have a customer-centric culture. Those looking to improve, need to develop one.
This is an iron-clad rule, making cultural change an essential ingredient for improving customer experience.
By its nature, company culture evolves over a long period of time, becoming deeply ingrained in the process. Changing it therefore demands a consistent, long-term effort. Another challenge is people’s natural resistance to change. As economist John Kenneth Gailbraith once put it: “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
These issues came to mind recently, while watching a fascinating TEDx talk by Tali Sharot, professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London. Professor Sharot offers some great insights into the science of behavioural change. I highly recommend checking it out for yourself, but for now, here are the key take aways.
Behavioural change – what the science says
We usually resort to threats or warnings when we try to change people’s behaviour. While this approach has intuitive appeal, according to a mountain of research, it doesn’t work.
Take anti-smoking campaigns, for example. Many countries now force cigarette brands to display gory pictures of smoking-related illnesses on their packaging. A noble effort, given the harm caused by these products, but according to science, entirely futile. Studies show that these pictures don’t influence smokers to quit. One even found they may have the opposite effect.
Why would this be?
One explanation is that when faced with danger as a result of our decisions, we tend to rationalise them. A smoker may think, ‘my grandmother smoked a pack a day and lived to 90, so I’ll be fine’. This can result in increased feelings of resilience in the face of the very danger we’ve been warned about.
Another explanation is our tendency to filter out information that’s inconsistent with our beliefs – the ‘head in the sand effect’, so to speak. This is a classic form of confirmation bias we’re all susceptible to. We readily notice things that confirm our beliefs, while conveniently ignoring anything that undermines them.
What this all suggests, is that when it comes to changing people’s behaviour, there are more effective ways to do it.
Professor Sharot identifies three key principles for driving behavioural change:
- Social incentives;
- Immediate rewards; and
- Progress monitoring.
The way these principles work in practice is well illustrated by another piece of research she describes.
A leading US hospital wanted to increase rates of handwashing among staff. Initially, they installed cameras outside the patient’s rooms, monitoring how often staff washed their hands before entering. Despite being held accountable in this way, footage showed that only one in ten staff were complying with the procedure.
Next, the hospital tried installing electronic boards outside the rooms. Each time a staff member washed their hands, the board would flash up daily and weekly compliance rates for their department. Within a short time, compliance had shot up to 90%.
This intervention was so successful because it engages the three principles described. It offers a social incentive, showing staff that others are increasingly complying. It provides an immediate reward, as staff can see their efforts paying off every time they wash their hands. Finally, it enables continuous progress monitoring.
How do we apply these principles when it comes to corporate cultural change?
What does this teach us when it comes to changing the corporate culture in a way that drives CX success?
Firstly, it supports the need for change to come from the top.
As with any aspect of company culture, the tone is set by senior management, and it all starts with the CEO. This is something I have witnessed first hand. After fifteen years helping companies improve their CX, I can now sense from the beginning of how successful a client will be by the level of buy-in among its leadership.
This makes perfect sense in light of Professor Sharot’s research. When senior management embraces a realignment of company culture, this is a compelling social incentive for everyone else to follow.
One way of demonstrating management’s commitment to CX is the creation of a senior position with responsibility for CX initiatives and improvements. This also has the benefit of opening a direct line of communication between management and individual departments, enabling progress to be monitored, and changes implemented, at the departmental level.
CX metrics and associated KPI’s are also fundamentally important, as they engage the progress monitoring and immediate reward principles identified. These measures should be attributed to the same level of importance as a company’s financial reports while being discussed at every level of the organisation.
As all this suggests, breaking down silos and developing an effective continuous improvement process are also essential components of CX success. So important, in fact, that each deserves its own post. These will be the topics for my next two blogs – Stay tuned!
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View the previous nlighten article by Nathalie Schooling: Customer experience – the next frontier for leading B2B companies
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