Are You a Change Junkie? Most people are not, and that should influence how you approach many aspects of your customer advocacy program.

We had a really terrific conversation this week with our Change Champion customer, Meagan McAlexander, from CentralSquare Technologies. The objective of these conversations was to capture the specific elements of Prosci’s change management model, ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement), that produced change success for advocacy program leaders, and then share those learnings with our community.

Change Overload

On the topic of Desire, addressing any obstacles that cause people to resist change, Meagan identified change overload as a significant culprit. We all feel the constant drumbeat of change in our personal and professional lives. Yes, the rate of change has been increasing with each passing year. Arguably, the magnitude of change is increasing as well.

How does this relate to change specific to customer advocacy programs? The largest stakeholder group of CMA programs by count are salespeople, followed by marketing and customer success. Each of these groups are bombarded by new processes, new technology, new work environments and new co-workers. There’s no way of avoiding it, it’s the new normal. Program leaders can’t change those macro conditions, but that doesn’t prohibit them from being a change management force.

What advocacy program leaders can do is manage change better than it’s being managed by other leaders in the organization. It’s a healthy competition, like the pursuit of mindshare in the form of customer engagement if you run any aspect or form of a community.

Empathy

So much of competent change management begins with empathy. That can be said of pretty much every aspect of life. Putting yourself in the shoes of another gets to a level of understanding that circumvents wasted time and energy on actions and behaviors that raise defenses and objections. When we feel heard and understood so much can be accomplished. That is the basis for a good relationship. Good change management is a proven way to begin a beautiful working relationship!

If you’re introducing a new customer advocacy program to your organization, begin by meeting with samples of your stakeholder groups. Ask them questions that will help you understand how they, and their co-workers, will react to the changes you’re planning. Learn what information will be helpful to share, what past experiences—with initiatives involving change—were like; what worked and what was lacking. Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate! Recognize that your initiative is being judged, at least in part, by the successes or failures (more likely) of prior company initiatives that didn’t pan out. Studies show that over 70% of company initiatives fail due to poorly executed change management.

Ongoing Change Management

Change management is not a project, just as customer advocacy is not a project with a defined start and end. It is woven into everboarding, which we’ve written about previously. Program launches require broadly applied change management in terms of ADKAR to reach future state and prevent regression to the before times. But there will always be new hires and changes in the environment that will require micro-targeted application of the ADKAR principles. Training (i.e., Knowledge & Ability) may be lacking, for example. And then, people also just plain fall off the change wagon from time to time. Count on it, be vigilant.

Do Change Better

Effective change management is crucial for the success of any initiative; customer advocacy programs are no exception. Program leaders must prioritize empathy and proactive stakeholder engagement to effectively manage the transition from the old way to the better way. By understanding and addressing the unique challenges and experiences of stakeholders, advocacy initiatives will thrive despite fluctuating environments. Be better than all those other failed initiatives littering the road behind you.