Customer Intimacy: Getting Buy-In & Making the Case for Change

The Customer Intimacy journey requires focus for an extended period of time, and even when companies take the long view, living through the natural disappointments of this size of business model transformation can discourage the best organizations. 

Thus, the importance of gaining a shared view of the business cannot be overstated.

Depending upon company culture, this may require buy-in from a few key executives, or, in today’s climate, a much larger group. Further, the buy-in process requires persuasion at three levels: emotional, intellectual, and tangible (evidence-based results).

There is no consistent way for organizations to absorb and adopt truth. But, I think understanding what they need – depending on type of organization and driver of decisions – helps in gaining a shared view.  The following information is organized as discrete options but in reality you will probably combine several different approaches – firms don’t fit neatly into the above matrix.

Also, the use of the word emotional in the diagram above refers to firms that have the ability to undertake action through an intuitive, inspirational, or gut-level understanding – they know the truth when they see it.  Surprisingly, many of the biggest and most successful decisions by the best run companies have been made this way.

Now, let’s discuss a few ways to assist an organization in the analysis of the case for change (obtaining of the truth). By no means are these the only mechanisms available to an organization but hopefully they can help in organizing our thoughts about how to get a shared view within the business.

Again, beginning the Customer Intimacy journey with support from the organization is crucial; in my experience I find very few firms actually take the time to understand the decisions required and make them with the appropriate support. Indeed, this is one of the primary reasons why business model transformation initiatives fail.

  1. Hierarchical firms that make emotional decisions.  As stated, this process is about getting those who are trusted by the organization to make those leaps of faith to want to move to the Intimacy Engine™.  We have seen firms take executives on a retreats where the current reality is examined from a scenario point of view – what would happen if we can’t change things with the usual methods, how would are business be different if we are viewed as an extension of our clients.  The use of a well organized retreat allows for the time to consider things differently than normal; above all, the retreat must be well planned and implemented.
  2. Hierarchical firms that are quantitatively driven. This is about understanding the benefits of moving to the model and risk of the journey.  This might be accomplished with an iterative process of resenting the story and related data in a more and more detailed fashion over a few meetings:
    1. What is the issue we are trying to address and how does this business model address it?
    2. What are the benefits – increased revenue, decreased costs, longer more valuable client relations?
    3. What are the risks – chance of failure, cost of failure, and ways to mitigate?
    4. What are the approaches for implementing and a proposed plan, decision gates?
  3. Hierarchical firms that need outcomes to commit.  These firms must see the output of a pilot of the model to fully get on board.  Pilots need much more discussion than can be provided here – but the choosing of the market/product/team for the pilot and the way it is monitored is obviously crucial.
  4. Communal firms that make emotional decisions.  These firms have strong cultures and require an approach that leverages the inclusive nature of the business.  This will require many events and outlets for different groups and levels of the firm to participate in examining and reacting to the idea and ramifications of the move to the Intimacy Engine™. Then representatives from each group (vertical or horizontal) would conduct a firm report out – usually requiring several cascading events.
  5. Communal firms that are that are quantitatively driven.  This is a tough situation where many people must be convinced of the financial and risk assessment viability of an idea.  I have seen an approach to this where a case study of the business is created and then this is disseminated – adjusted, improved, and edited – in a company-wide co-creation process.
  6. Communal firms that need outcomes to commit.  This process must take into account both the need for a successful pilot but also the need for a broad range of people within the firm to participate.  This can be accomplished by broadly exposing the organization to the pilot throughout its life.  The interaction must be factual even blunt and open to all criticism.

A note of warning. One other approach we have seen used is the under the radar program. Although this requires much less upfront effort, it often fails because the people involved have not bought into the change.  This approach to change management is rarely financed appropriately and when difficulties arise they’re shut down because it’s much easier to fail when most of the firm is indifferent or against the program.

The takeaway: the Customer Intimacy journey begins with employee buy-in.