Catalysts for Change

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In the 2006 classic business book by John Kotter, Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions, a penguin named Fred is an important catalyst for change.

The book is a cleverly written fable that contains lessons for almost any business professional on meeting the challenges of bringing about change. Curious Fred has discovered that the iceberg on which he and other penguins live is melting. He knows they must do something, but convincing others to move to another iceberg is wrought with obstacles. He faces stubborn leadership, naysayers, and traditionalists that don’t want to change. However, through working with others, building a persuasive case, and sheer persistence, Fred makes a big impact within his colony of penguins.

Fred’s story should sound familiar to customer experience (CX) professionals who make important discoveries but struggle to bring about action and change in their organizations. After all, CX leaders have access to a great deal of customer input, insight, and intelligence, giving them a value within their organizations that can’t be matched.


Unfortunately, convincing coworkers that it’s time to make changes takes more than just sharing customer insight. While you may be expecting colleagues to say "Great idea!" more common responses are "That's not the way we do it," "We can't afford it," or "We don't have time to change what we're doing."

Yes, the biggest obstacle to customer-focused change is people. No one wants to take the time to evaluate what they're doing, factor in the customer's perspective, and incorporate a change that may make things more difficult.

And yet, change is necessary for any organization to advance. And change that originates from the customer is the most valid.


CX leaders must do more than provide ratings and satisfaction scores and hope colleagues put them to use. They must tailor the intelligence they provide to people and departments throughout their organizations. CX leaders must look across the organization to identify the pockets with the most potential, finding the "centers of impact" where customer-focused change will make the biggest difference. The following are areas where customer intelligence should be woven into everyday processes:

  • sales organizations, including account management and sales operations;
  • support centers, including technical support and/or customer service;
  • groups involved in "on-boarding" or installation;
  • product management, including research and development;
  • indirect sales, including channel networks and distribution;
  • marketing, including brand development and lead generation;
  • quality and logistics departments;
  • corporate growth, including mergers, acquisitions, and alliances; and
  • regional organizations and global territories.

Each of these areas needs customer intelligence to optimize their work. CX leaders must provide intelligence that is highly tailored and relevant for each of these segments. Seem like a big task? It is. Start with those that have the biggest opportunity to make an impact.


Among the many lessons from our friend Fred the penguin, three stand out as particularly relevant:

• Be outwardly focused. Fred's curiosity was key to his discovery. CX leaders should avoid being shoe-horned into one area of the company. They should look for ways to use customer intelligence to make an impact across their organizations.

• Be persuasive. Fred was not a high-ranking penguin. However, he was clever and persuasive enough to gain the support of the right contacts. The same should be true for CX leaders, who must convince others to make use of customer intelligence in the decisions they make.

• Be persistent. Fred didn't give up. CX leaders are the voice of the customer. They must constantly work through the channels of the organization to ensure the viewpoint of the customer is factored into their organizations' products, services, processes, and interactions.

Armed with customer intelligence, CX leaders, like Fred, are poised to be key catalysts for change.

Patrick Gibbons is a principal at Walker, a leading customer experience consulting firm. Read his blog at http://blog.walkerinfo.com/blog/engaging-the-enterprise. He can be reached at pgibbons@walkerinfo.com.

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