Incentivise for Enhanced Customer Experience

I recently experienced two very different customer experience extremes, where the potential of financial gain may have played a major part in the more positive experience. Both were in the entertainment or hospitality business with one in New York and the other in London. One made me feel very content and the other left me frustrated and thoroughly disappointed with the service provided.

In New York, Gayle, our hop-on hop-off tour bus guide was entertaining, informative and funny. This was delivered in a brash, self-deprecating and sarcastic tone where all passengers were engaged and included. She made us, and all the other passengers, feel very welcome on board taking us on a passion inspired journey of her city. We stayed on the bus a little bit longer than planned despite the audio malfunction (Gayle was clearly audible without the microphone!).

A week earlier in London, we were having a birthday party for my youngest son and a handful of his friends in a wonderful new leisure complex. This was a high energy event involving lots of running, jumping, climbing that was cleverly designed to wear out most seven year olds. As is standard nowadays, this is followed by some food for the children, dancing or games and birthday.

We were assigned Marsha (I can’t actually remember her name) as our party organiser, who would be there for us and make sure everyone had a great time. Marsha was clearly not delivering on her job description that day and told us at the start that he she was not well having been out partying all night. Her lethargic behaviour was in total contrast to the mayhem running around the large hall. Marsha’s shoulders were dropped and she was literally dragging her feet as she slowly approached with the colourful cold drinks for the panting kids. I had some empathy for Marsha, as her head must have been pounding. However, I was the paying customer and it was my child’s birthday party. Thankfully, her inability and unwillingness to entertain did not distract from the great fun that all the children had.

Now this was not a scientific study and there are many variables that would sway the customer experience either way, but how much did the potential for additional financial gain play a part? In the UK, Marsha is paid a wage and there is no expectation whatsoever that anyone would pay her a tip, even if she went beyond the bounds of her entertainment remit. This is not me being mean-spirited, a significant payment was already made for the event, and it is just the way it is in the UK.

Meanwhile on the New York open-top bus, the expectation of a tip is not passively hoped for, it is explicitly announced. Gayle explains how important the tips are to her and her driver, Enrique. To some people from non-tipping cultures this can often seem akin to begging. It is not; it is appreciation for the wonderful work Gayle had done and the pleasure she had brought to our lives on that short trip through the street of the Big Apple. If Marsha thought that there was a good chance that she would get a tip for her entertaining, would she have battled through her hangover and made a greater effort?

Commitment through Communications

A communications plan as part of the Change Management approach should be prepared and approved for each project or release aligned to the master communications plan at a programme level. Each phase will deliver a number of messages to the associated stakeholders to support the objectives for that project, release or phase. At the end of each phase and at key milestones within each phase, the Business Change team will assess the effectiveness of the communications and act accordingly.

Stakeholder engagement and communications management go hand-in-hand on any successful change programme. And no change strategy would be complete without a curve. The curve below has been adapted over many year of experience with customers going through change.

Communications management is a key mechanism in achieving stakeholder commitment. In developing and delivering communications, consideration to stakeholder positions on the curve is taken into account to deliver a message that will support the movement of stakeholders through the curve towards commitment.

In one simple diagram this stakeholder commitment curve highlights the training aspects on the right axis. It shows the communication phases at the top and the project phases at the bottom. The stakeholder commitment rises gradually from bottom left to top right. This, of course, is not a rigid plan, it must be used for guidance and some people will need to go back to try and understand more while others will have a longer and slower rise. Not everyone will reach “Internalisation” and success can be measured on how many stakeholders are committed to the change.


Stakeholder Committment

At the heart of stakeholder engagement is the involvement of certain stakeholders in the development and implementation of the programme. Involving stakeholders appropriately in the programme will assist the business change team to develop ownership of, and commitment to, the solution. Key strategies for developing commitment among stakeholders include:

  • The development of awareness and understanding of the benefits to the client organisation as a whole through planned and managed communications.
  • Face-to-face contact with particular stakeholders (e.g. Sponsors, Champions or departmental heads) on a regular basis. Venues for these are the governance meetings and Change Champions Forum.
  • The programme office and business change team should regularly link up to align and prioritise the most critical items for progress reporting, intervention and communication.
  • Involvement at key stages of the programme with particular stakeholders to develop ownership and commitment to the solution.
  • The development of two-way communication between all stakeholders and the Programme. It is important to listen to stakeholders and take the necessary action, not just disseminate information.

Innovative Change

Spreadsheets are all too often the “tool” for managing and tracking activities in Change Management (and many other disciplines too). Microsoft Excel is a great solution for so many activities and Change Management teams will have a plethora of templates in Excel. However, there are other ways to achieve the desired outcome without having to fill out the ever increasingly complex spreadsheet. There are some great tools, software and solutions being developed and available, often free online, that can help and are easy to use, access and display.

Stakeholder Engagement is the Change Management activity to identify, monitor, act and report on people that are impacted by, and/or can influence the outcome or progress of a project or programme. Invariably, a spreadsheet is used to list all the stakeholders involved and against each person information is entered. What information entered is dependent on the project and can include anything from static roles and contact details, to dropdown colour-coded lists on perceived understanding or resistance to the programme, to more specific actions on next steps to get them more, or indeed less, involved. After several months, updating can be an onerous job with lesser visibility or interest.

The spreadsheet is always valuable and often cannot be replaced as a contractual deliverable. However, another tool that can be very useful in Stakeholder Engagement is trello ( This can be used very effectively to do all the necessary updating when engaging with stakeholders. We used this very successfully on a project recently. The change team were out in the field meeting people and were able to enter short updates against people or teams using the app on their smartphones. These were often short messages: “Attended Tom’s management meeting. Positive feedback. Some concerns about training timelines. Asked for regulate slot on agenda.” The interface is very user friendly and other team members can easily check updates in real-time. 

It is great see some new tools and techniques being made available and at Change Strategy we love to innovate and dare to be different.

Trello example.

Change Management?

What is the correct name for Change Management or is there one? Do we need one? Over many years I have heard many variations – business change, organisational change or business transformation amongst others.

Coupled with these terms are often preconceived ideas. Business change is purely about how the business will need to cope with the forthcoming changes or people change which is only focused on how the people in the organisation will be impacted. Transformational change, usually within a Transformation Programme, is increasingly over used and even less well understood. Very often these transformation programmes are just big or complex programmes and while multiple systems will be integrated with a myriad of legacy and third party systems, the organisation may not necessarily transform. 

Many years ago I had to explain what I meant by Change Management to a group of highly experienced technical people. They really knew their technology and how everything fitted together to deliver state of the art solutions. When it came to Change Management their first reaction was that this was about configuration changes and the management of these. they then thought it was broader and covered all aspects of scope change within a project. These bright minds soon appreciated that their revolutionary solutions could only deliver real tangible results if the users were prepared for, educated about and fully bought into what the future could look like. Not a functionality swap but a paradigm shift. 

Times have changed and there is a far greater understanding of Change Management and the benefits it can bring to organisations. It is now a recognised discipline with clearly defined elements, tools and methodologies. However, there are still times when I have to re-explain and often it can be easier to but the words people or business in from of Change Management just to emphasise and differentiate what we are doing.