Bandages will not create better experiences. Here is what will.

woman in black tank top

Racism (and all manner of other “-isms” that label people as lower than others) has been a scourge on our world for possibly as long as we’ve inhabited the planet. It is unfortunate that this misguided and, most times, ignorant mindset is still a blight to us in the 21st century. However, it is, unfortunately, among us, and it isn’t just among the uneducated or backward, it is present in those with college degrees as much as anywhere. We see it in celebrities, business leaders, government leaders, sports stars, in fact, almost every corner of life. It is a cancer on our world.

Over and over in the press we hear of people of note being “caught” demonstrating racist behavior. This past summer in the UK, on the England cricket team, the national team, one of their stars was found to have tweeted racist and sexist comments. He was quickly suspended and took a break from professional cricket. Now, while suspending him sent a message to others to watch their step and that the cricket community would not stand for such behavior, it posed a question, and it is a question that gets posed in just about every instance where someone is publicly punished—shamed actually—for bad behavior, will the public disgrace bring about a change in the thinking that caused the behavior? Probably not, regrettably, because it just addresses symptoms instead of the disease.

Why I am talking about this is because this public shaming and the idea that it will change things is really just hoping for change rather than actually taking action that will result in change. And this hoping rather than acting is exactly what is wrong with so many efforts to change uninspiring, inhumane workplaces and customer spaces.

When businesses find that their customer or employee experience needs improvement—usually because a survey showed bad signs and some board member with a desire to get on the customer/employee engagement bandwagon threw a fit—they put together a team to fix it. Then the team begins mapping journeys, drawing experience blueprints, designing changes, and training everybody. They throw out terminology like governance, customer-focus, customer-centricity, omnichannel and multi-channel this and that, CRM, alignment, personalization, touchpoints, VoC, the list goes on and on. And all of it is well-meaning and done with the utmost professionalism, but it ultimately fails in the same way that the public shaming fails, namely because it does not address the fundamental issue of changing the thinking that lies behind the bad behavior. You see, if making workplaces and customer spaces more human is not part of the DNA of the organization, the hard work of change becomes a bandage on a wound rather than an operation to fix the internal illness.

So, what needs to happen? Here is a plan.

  1. Find the champions who believe like you. Find those people who see that business is essentially a vehicle for helping people. Find the people who understand that business is a human enterprise where financial success is only an outcome of providing for others.
  2. Get a commitment from those champions to begin demonstrating service to those around them both customers and co-workers. If they are managers, get a commitment that they will work to remove obstacles to people’s success, that they will work to change policies and processes that do not work for people.
  3. Once you get those people working in the right direction, begin looking for successes. If you find numbers that show a difference, use them, numbers are all some people trust. As successes grow, share the results with others, get more champions, get more support. It is not a revolution as much as it is an evolution.

At some point, some executive leader will notice, they will ask, “what’s happening in the XYZ Department? They have the happiest employees, and their customer service scores are through the roof.” This opens the door. This is changing the DNA. This is how the surgery works.

Much like racist behavior, without changing mindset, we do not get true change. We only get surface change. We only get a façade. To make it happen for the long term, you must change the fundamental thinking and biology of the organization.

So, you have your walking orders. No more bandages. You must perform surgery. Find the champions, get commitment, encourage them, find the successes, shout it from the rooftops until it gets noticed. It takes time but that’s what it takes to get results that last.

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