Why change to customer centricity doesn't need a burning plattform

Most customer experience professionals are at this point someday: they are looking for the one central message, the burning platform to start the transformation process. If we don't put the customer at the center of our business then .... Yes then what? The belief that we need to communicate a burning platform is widespread. If we don't do that, our change initiative is practically doomed to failure, says John P. Kotter. About 70% of the Change Initiatives fail*, ours of course should not be one of them. So we want to do everything right from the beginning. But why is it so difficult to find this central message and not simply end up with the succinct "no customers, no pay"?


Because the change to customer centricity does not require a burning platform and it can even be counterproductive. Why?


  1. The vast majority of customer centricity initiatives start from a position of strength. The company is usually not on the verge of bankruptcy or takeover. Messages that are aimed in this direction appear very implausible because the employees know what their employer is up to.

  2. A burning platform can even be counterproductive, because it spreads uncertainty and fear. If you really insist on it, employees don't really have the feeling to know if their company is doing well or not. An unpleasant feeling could arise that there might be something in the "bush".

  3. A year-long fight against an invisible "opponent" is exhausting and eventually fizzles out.

  4. Does it make sense to start a change initiative towards customer focus with fear? I would rather say: What you don't do to your customer, don't do to your employees.

  5. A change to customer centricity is an organizational development and not an economic change. These are two very different approaches that unfortunately are often not kept apart. The goals are fundamentally different. Economic change is about money, shareholder value and dividends. These are to be multiplied x-times and require strong leadership. Organizational development is about working together to move the company forward.


What is the alternative? To set up a program not from top-down, but is jointly supported. A program that takes into account the degree of maturity in the company and where, for example, CX values are developed in co-creation. A program that leaves room for discussion and fun but also for making fun and irony. Is it uncomfortable? Absolutely. Must it be? Yes, because only in this zone change happens. 


*Beer, Noria, Cracking the code of change, HBR 2001

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