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Customer Experience Firestarter: A Practical Guide to Igniting & Managing Customer-Centric Change

It is very often the case that a customer satisfaction management and a push to become more customer-centric come top down. Senior leadership is sincerely convinced in the benefits of customer experience and insights as a strategic advantage, but during the adoption phase the program is frequently challenged by executives in different roles and functions across the organisation.

Yet, if you need anybody’s buy-in, it’s the active approval and engagement of the people who talk and work with clients every day. Customer experience management is a great strategic framework, but people within the organisation are the ones who make it alive. You may have the vision, the budgets, the technology, but if people don’t make it a habit to actively seek out customer feedback and insights, and incorporate it in their everyday decisions, you’ll never have business impact.

Four ingredients for success of each CX program

At GemSeek we know from experience and believe that there are 4 ingredients for success of each CX program:

  • Buy-In from the leadership and other key stakeholders – to help secure investments in the CX program and bring the CX program to life.
  • A technology platform that provides scalability and standartisation of program, as well as automation of feedback gathering, closing the loop capabilities and objective metrics for customer satisfaction.
  • A service partner to ensure speed and efficiency when adapting the CX program to the dynamic business requirements.
  • Measurable business impact beyond the general agreement that happy customers are more loyal and spend more.


  • How to get C-level buy-in for CX improvement initiatives?
  • How to ensure consistency of our approach to CX across departments?
  • How to make sure that all sales managers, account managers and other functions are committed to delivering great customer experience and know how to do it?
  • How to make CX a priority for your company?

The bigger topic all of these very questions touch upon is this: how to scope, ignite, and manage change within organisations. Translated to the CX domain, this would mean: how to scope, ignite, and manage the evolution towards a truly customer-centric organisation. That is, in essence what each of the questions in the beginning addresses: how to do change management well.

We harnessed our experience with B2B CX programs and healthcare companies to adapt two of the most popular change management frameworks – Dan and Chip Heath’s “Switch: How to change things when change is hard” and Jonah Berger’s “The Catalyst”.

Ignite a customer-centric transformation in the style of Dan & Chip Heath’s “Switch”

The way to get people to start behaving in a new way? The short answer is: appeal to both to both reason and emotion; to System 1 and System 2; to the part of the mind doing the planning and to the one providing the energy; or as Dan and Chip Heath put it, work with both The Rider (the rational) and The Elephant (the emotional) side every one of us possesses, and do your best to create the best situation for change to happen and stick. What is so difficult about it? Well, The Rider is truly great for he provides the direction. Yet, the control he’s imposing on The Elephant is exhaustive – self-control, we now know, is a depletable resource. This is what makes change hard – The Rider is fighting a battle against automatic, habitual behaviours,
which is one the toughest ones to fight.


  • Direct the rider: What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So, provide crystal-clear direction.” (p. 17)
  • Motivate the Elephant: “What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The Rider can’t get his way by force for very long. So it’s critical that you engage people’s emotional side—get their Elephants on the path and cooperative.” (p. 17)
  • Shape the Path: “What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what’s happening with the Rider and Elephant.” (p. 18)



  • Make sure that The Rider knows where he’s going and that he doesn’t lose sight of his target.
  • Ensure that The Elephant is motivated, thinks he can do it, and knows how to do it.
  • Support these elements by removing any barriers along the way.

How does it work in practice?

1. Direct the Rider

To direct The Rider’s part to anyone’s mind:


Pointing in the right direction means establishing a vision, a purpose, or a goal of the journey. Everything is easier when one knows where they need to go. In CX terms, I’ve seen this done in two ways. Most of the companies have a CX metric target, no matter if the metric itself is NPS, CSAT or any other.

The second thing that works well for a lot of companies is a customer experience intent statement. This is not something that you will necessarily achieve. Your customer experience intent statement is rather your North Star to follow; the criteria against which you will evaluate all of your decisions related to CX. As Annette Franz puts it in this excellent post, your customer experience intent statement is your answer to this question:

“What do you want customers to feel as they interact or transact with your brand?”



The second thing you can do to direct The Rider is to script the critical moves. In the CX world, this is a great advice for anyone working with the people in the front lines to deliver great customer experience. The idea behind it is rather simple – think in terms of specific behaviors.


Signify, a leader in lighting manufacturing, has a very well documented and detailed close-the-loop process with Detractors they follow each quarter:

  • Customer Satisfaction Managers call back identified Detractors within 72 hours of survey completion. This is a specially assigned role to someone from the senior management team, who is able to send across the message about feedback importance. They also have the distance from sales representatives to have an open conversation and identify the root cause of the problem.
  • Within 2 weeks the team does market deep-dives to understand common issues for customer groups
  • Special improvement initiatives are launched to solve the most pressing issues. These can be short-term actions, such initiating additional meetings to improve communication with a disgruntled key account or longer-term multi-team initiatives, such as reorganizing online product catalogues to improve their usability
  • At the end of the quarter, improvement results are communicated back to client stakeholders
    The Speed to First Callback after survey completion and the number of improvement initiatives are closely followed as internal KPIs.


The third thing that helps direct The Rider is finding what already works and replicating it. As a CX professional, this could mean a number of things. On one hand, you can look for good examples that have been proven to work in other companies and pilot them in your situation. A very effective practice in this direction is creating success stories to help with the scale up of a CX program.

A client of ours, a large multinational manufacturing company, issues an annual Best Practice Report, where each market shares stories about locally implemented improvement initiatives – what was the specific pain identified and at what touchpoint (sales, ordering, delivery, installation, training, support, etc.), what was the improvement to solve the particular issue (e.g. introduce digital tracking of deliveries and reminders for scheduled maintenance support) and what was the impact in terms of financial metrics (e.g. saved a customer, who spends millions each year).


Two years after introducing a completely digitized CX measurement program, our client- a leading B2B lighting equipment manufacturer, started to see early signs that initial excitement was wearing off – NPS growth was slowing down, response rates on some markets were decreasing. That’s why decided it was time to increase the independence of executives on the local markets to come up with improvement initiatives, prioritise them properly, get internal buy-in from needed stakeholders and then see them come to live and bring the desired results. Together we created a solution that harnesses the “collective wisdom” through the years.

We looked back into the historical data from 105 countries and we identified which proactive improvements, undertaken by the company’s executives, have had the most significant impact on customers’ Likelihood to recommend and ultimately – revenue or share of wallet. One of the important findings we reached is that Close-the-loop actions, had the largest impact on NPS: They increase likelihood to recommend by 2-3 points on average, on the scale of 0-10. This finding is very important for internal engagement. Having hard proof that these activities have an effect on customer satisfaction serves as a powerful reminder for a Customer Satisfaction Manager before picking up the phone that what they are about to do is actually meaningful.

2. Motivate the elephant

Here are the three ways for motivating The Elephant Dan and Chip Heath outline: go for emotional impact, shrink the change, and cultivate a sense of identity.


A common misconception and one deeply rooted in our minds is that knowledge and information makes people change. These do help but no, they are by no means enough to make a change. What we need to do if we want people to start acting differently is to find the feeling that can move them. It may sound a bit cynical, but this feeling can really be anything: from true care about customers, through competitiveness and the will to grow within a company, through envy, to fear that the competitors will get an edge, to wanting to put a successful project on a CV.


The second thing that works well for motivating The Elephant side of our brains is to make the change seem achievable. It could be a long way before you will reach it but this is just going to demotivate The Elephant. Make it small. Show how your CX initiative fits with what your company is already doing. Show it as an extension of an initiative already in place. Position it as a lowhanging fruit. Work with short time horizons.


And finally, make people feel a part of a team or better still – of a community. As someone wise once said, “Culture is what people do when leadership looks another way”. A sense of identity cannot be instilled from the top. HeidelbergCement realised this quite early after the launch of their CX program and shifted focus to a bottom-up approach. Employees were extensively involved in the local design of the program and continue to be the driving force behind it.  Over time momentum grew and in 2020 a global CX initiatives showcase platform was launched, called “The CX Sessions”. Each session is dedicated to a central CX theme or touchpoint, where several countries share their experience in trying to optimize a specific part of the customer journey. They tell the universal story of how they identified a customer need and came up with a solution, so others can learn from their journey. Each session was attended by a global audience and highly appreciated – 75% of participants indicated the CX Sessions sparked activity in their business.

In the current setup employees from all functions are regularly exposed to customer feedback and have an active involvement in finding and implementing solutions. Slowly, but steadily the global culture is shifting from operational- and product-focused to a more customer-centric one.

3. Shape the path

In addition to appealing to The Rider and The Elephant (the rational and the emotional side of our minds), take care to clear the path of obstacles that can make both stumble. Dan and Chip Heath offer the following advice: change the situation, build habits, and rally the herd.


And last but not least, share and celebrate achievements. Success breeds success and people naturally gravitate towards areas in which they can succeed. Generate wins and celebrate them as loudly as you can. Win awards for your CX efforts! Behavior, as Dan and Chip Heath say, is contagious. Help your people establish a correlation between working on improving customer experience and a successful career, and you’ll achieve a lot.


One of our B2B customer experience customers applied to annual CX awards. We noticed that existing clients both of our customer, and of us, recognise exceptional performance online.

Because our client participated in multiple award formats, each time with us, the effect was dual: both their employees and GemSeek’s employees felt their efforts were seen and reconised, and the organisation witnessed first-hand best practices.


Building habits is one of the most powerful ways to change behavior. How do you do that? Well, habits have the following form: When X happens, I do Y, and this gives me benefit Z. Look for ways to trigger a different Y, a different behavior, by providing a reward when it happens. If you have the power to determine the incentives within your team for example, you can reward the people who delivered the best customer experience. You can also build checklists – these are a great way to trigger behavior. Or you can use the element of surprise to make people consider the new behavior. How many C-level executives know how beneficial delivering great CX can be for their company for example?


Putting this concept in practice will give you a head start in igniting change within your organisaton. Continue reading to level up your customer experience management pipeline with award-winning ideas that will move you further towards achieving true customer centricity.

Success stories


Achieving transformative growth 


38 countries in the world are using GS CX to capture their voice of the Customer exercise. It allows for global insight analysis, as well as global monitoring of the management system and ongoing CX improvements. This global standardization is remarkable for our business. – Judith Van Herwaarden


Increasing revenue with GemSeek’s customer experience platform

Our customer, a provider with multiple clinical and wellness locations, had a trend: some sites were performing exceptionally well in terms of CX, while others were lagging behind. There was no obvious difference between the two types of sites in terms of equipment, staff numbers or locations.

Through a dual advanced statistical approach, GemSeek was able to understand on site level the importance vs performance of each individual touchpoint, how it contributes the overall experience and how a positive change would impact each separate site’s revenue. We helped the client tackle the reactance and distance roadblocks by providing a list of stepwise, prioritized improvements.

Unlike before, this time employee didn’t have to deal with a list of 100 initiatives without knowing where to even start. Starting with a pilot on a few key sites then took care of the endowment, uncertainty, and evidence roadblocks. Site leaders were able to witness the transformation process and the positive revenue benefits this had.


Higher NPS coverage and proactive measures through pNPS

Our customer, a leading OEM for hospitals, end patients and laboratories has had a running NPS program for a decade. The program generated low response rates. We were tasked to identify ways for our customer to innovate and solve two main struggles: low response rates and lack of proactive actions.

To solve their pain points, we deployed a predictive NPS ML model that scored the expected NPS for the entire customer base after each interaction, whether they answered the NPS survey or not. We included a diversity of data, including NPS, CSAT, complaints, ticketing and monthly ops data of the equipment to increase the model’s accuracy.

Our predictive model allowed the client to increase their combined response rate (real + predicted) to a 100%.


Release the parking break with advice from “The Catalyst” by Jonah Berger

Instead of pushing and informing and convincing, maybe we are better off thinking about the roadblocks that prevent people from changing and work with and around them. Maybe it’s better to eliminate obstacles to ensure a smooth journey, rather than forcing the engine to go full power.


 1. Reactance: an action has an equal and opposite re-action. You push people, people push back. Often times we push to much: we oblige people to care about NPS by putting it in their performance evaluation; we force service reps to follow scripts; we insist and insist in front of the board that we need this CX initiative.

To tackle the ‘Reactance’ roadblock do your best to “allow for agency”. The goal here is to give people a choice; Jonah Berger puts it well – “…let people pick the path. Let them choose how they get where you are hoping they’ll go.” (p.29)


A client of ours with offices on more than 40 markets worldwide quickly realised in the first years of implementation of a global NPS program that strictly adhering to a standardized CX framework was robbing markets of the freedom to adjust the standards to the local realities. For example, their survey templates were designed for customers where each touchpoint was handled by a different person – e.g. purchasing, delivery, usage, while in reality on the smaller markets most of their customers had a single point of contact who was responsible for the whole process.

Through our work together and bottom-up involvement in defining the localized customer journeys we were able to accommodate the global program framework to the needs of sales and marketing managers across markets.

The global standards today are used as a starting point, but local markets are allowed much flexibility. Also, the experience and insights markets gain are valued and used to evolve the global framework further.

2. Endowment: we like it easy so we stick with what we are doing. Unless there is a terribly good reason for it, we tend to do what we’ve always done. We can also call it ‘the curse of success’. If what you are doing works, why change it? To future-proof your success could be one reason; the fact that no one stays ahead for too long another. Yet, the road to CX excellence is often blocked by our own success.

The ‘Endowment’ roadblock exists by and large because of loss aversion – we value what we possess more than what we don’t, hence we are more afraid to lose than excited to gain something. And because beliefs are like possessions, the same applies to our minds. We dread the loss of something we believe in. How to work around this?

One powerful action you can take is to make clear the cost of inaction. Framing things in terms of losses is very powerful. What will happen if you don’t act on improving CX? Will you lose this customer in 6 months? Will the customer lifetime value decrease by 20%? You can figure this out; once you do – use it to create a sense of urgency.

One customer of ours ran a customer-level analysis which identified three groups of accounts, the so-called “Sweet Spot”, “Untapped potential” and “Revenues at risk”. The analysis combined satisfaction scores and Share of Wallet and general revenue metrics for each account and helped the commercial teams prioritize their actions very clearly, based on the financial risk and perceived benefit associated with each account. By focusing on accounts in the “Untapped potential” quadrant (high satisfaction, low revenue) and “Revenues at risk” (low satisfaction, high revenue), they were able to increase share of wallet for some of the key accounts, becoming exclusive providers for them.

Get to understand what a 100% of your customers need, even the silent ones.


3. Distance: we like to work within our zones of acceptance. New information that is within it can land well but pushed too far it has no chance of success. Another reason hindering the success of CX practices within companies is what may hinder the success of any other initiative – the ‘too much, too soon’ syndrome. As an aside, novice runners know this very well – going for too many miles from the very beginning is the major reason for injuries; basically your body is pushing back on you. Sometimes we have a very clear idea of how the full CX program might look like and we enthusiastically share this vision with others. If it’s too new for them though we are likely to get rejected simply because it’s too much for people to take in.

The ‘Distance’ roadblock go small and ‘ask for less’. Remember that the Distance roadblock exists because there is a large gap between your point of view and how the person you are convincing to do something sees the world. Also remember that there is always an overlap between you two, no matter how far you are. Use this ‘movable middle’ to find common ground. And don’t ask for much – ask for a pilot, for a start, for a small change today, and then for another one in a week’s time. Small is beautiful.

4. Uncertainty: if we are not sure in the outcome, we are unlikely to act. Uncertainty is probably the most common and easily identifiable reason why CX initiatives don’t take off. Given that there are probably hundreds of things C-level execs can change within a company, would they bother with something with murky chances of success? Uncertainty is often times the biggest roadblock. Let’s use the right name for it, shall we – it’s fear. Fear that we might lose something or not succeed. How to help people manage this roadblock? One thing we can do is give the option of a trial. By now this is a very popular way of managing uncertainty, given that you can get a demo or a short-term subscription to any piece of software. In essence, anything that helps people try something without committing to it helps.

5. Corroborating Evidence: we need more than anecdotal evidence; we need many people to show us or tell us something to start believing it. You cannot allow to be alone on the quest to build a customer-centric organisation. And finally, there is strength in numbers, and that’s what helps work around the ‘Corroborating Evidence’ roadblock. If you can show that a similar company has done something similar in a similar situation, that will be golden. Or look for examples internally – has a colleague of yours done something that improved CX significantly? How can you celebrate this success? How can you tie success within the company with customer success?

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