thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Change Needs Creative Ideas

By on March 31, 2010


The transformation to customer-centricity will happen more quickly if you are a good storyteller.

One of the best examples of change management is the Gloves on the Boardroom Table story, told by John P. Kotter in The Heart of Change and, more recently, shared by Chip and Dan Heath in Switch. A global corporation learned that its factories were purchasing 424 different kinds of work gloves because every factory had their own supplier and their own negotiated price. The price for a glove at some factories was over three times higher than what was paid for the identical glove at another factory.  The savings opportunity was approximately $1 billion over five years.

A team of employees assembled samples of all 424 gloves, labeled them with the current price, and put them in the boardroom. When executives were called in, they were amazed. A mandate for change came quickly and the gloves became part of a traveling road show to every corporate division and many plants. The tangible example and the dramatic presentation created a clear call to action because it was honest and, without coercion, it illustrated that there was a more sensible way to spend this money.

For me, this story demonstrates two things. First, the glove story is so compelling because executives can easily get their minds around internal efficiencies (or lack thereof) and opportunities to save money. Certainly we also can relate to how the inefficiencies developed in the first place. We have all experienced the silo mentalities that let practices develop without two-way communication among departments and divisions of companies. Organizations are comfortable dealing “inside the four walls” of their companies, since this is their traditional area of control.

Secondly, you should use similar creativity to sell customer-connection ideas within your organizations. If your team knows that customers will value the elimination of a process step or a change that will make their lives easier, your team members should compile data about the current state and tell the story about what the future could look like. Visual examples, such as the gloves in the boardroom, will make the argument more convincing. Clear reasoning will take you from a state of “I think we should…” to “Here is what change will mean to our customers.” That’s riveting. The key ingredient that data provides is a vision of the future. If you can show how customers will benefit in a quantifiable way, it will be easier for your organization to embrace the idea.

As Kotter observes, “people change what they do…because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.” Change on behalf of customers happens when an emotional case can be made about how that change will positively affect those customers and, in turn, the beneficial impact that it will have inside your organization, as well. Data will not only increase the urgency, but will raise the level of buy-in. After all, everyone loves a great story.


One Response to “Change Needs Creative Ideas”

  1. Hi there , I am making a website and I think some of your articles would fit the context good. Am I allowed to post your article?

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