Challenge the Status Quo? No! Challenge the Change!


| Published: JUNE 2018

In this world of fast paced change, we are often told to challenge the status quo – that nothing is sacred. The trouble is that we are failing more than we are succeeding when it comes to change; research continues to show only about a 30% success rate when implementing change. How do we improve our track record? Challenge the change!

I was buying dog food last month and as the cashier completed the transaction she handed me a card with my loyalty account number on it. Until this point, I had been giving my phone number for them to locate me in the system and track my purchases (every tenth bag is free). As we concluded our transaction, the cashier announced that they are changing their system to “this thing called the cloud” with loyalty cards. “Can I still use my phone number?” I asked. “Yes,” she replied. “So why do I need this card?” “We are handing them out.” “But I can still use my phone number?” “Yes, or your account number.”

Reflecting on this experience I can see the classic signs of a software system driving a process rather than the process driving the system. Let’s consider the need for an account number. Computer systems need a unique identifier to be able to manage the database, in this case, the client database. The users of this system need a quick and reliable way to locate a customer record – an account number. It is a unique, non-changing number that will accurately track that customer record. Even when everything in that customer record changes, address, phone, even name, the account number will never change, so it is the most reliable way of locating a customer record.

Considering this from the customer’s point of view, we all have rewards programs we participate in: buy 10 get 1 free, collect points for fabulous rewards, and behind each one of these is a database complete with a customer record and the ever-present account number. To access that record, for this pet supplies retailer, they chose to use the customer’s phone number. When it was first set up I was given my points card, “Do I have to present this each time?” “No, just to set you up, all you need is your phone number going forward.” This was an improvement over the previous method, no more getting confused with the other David Donaldson who buys his pet food at the same store in town, and this method worked wonderfully until the cloud of change loomed.

What I find most interesting in this whole experience is the transition to the cloud could have been completed without ever interrupting the comfortable flow of the customer transaction. “Phone number?” “519-555-1234.” “David Donaldson?” “Yes, that’s me.” “You have three more bags till your next free one.” “Wonderful, have a great day.” Cloud? What cloud? Just a regular day buying food for man’s best friend.

In the case of the cloud we have the benefits of central, real-time data. Corporate head office will have quicker easier access to the data necessary to run its national retail organization. To the store staff, no more upload/download batch processing, everything is already there. There is a myriad of benefits.

Now, let’s look at this from the perspective of the customer. Another rewards program to keep track of, another account number, another access card. I am quite happy to volunteer just my phone number if they take care of the rest.

A change in the back-end platform and back-end process of their account system does not mean that we need to change the process of identifying the customer – a process that is working well. When they went through this change I wonder if anyone in the store asked the questions, “Why are we giving the customer this card with their customer number if we can still use their phone number?” “Does this new step make sense?” “Does it address a problem or are we adding an unnecessary element to the process that does not contribute value?”

I have since been back to the store and am happy to report that we have returned to our normal customer transaction flow, no account number needed: quick, smooth and pleasant.results in various reactions. For some, change can cause fear, doubt, anxiety, insecurity or perhaps ambivalence. For others, change means excitement, anticipating opportunities, and looking forward to a new future. Depending on their reaction, employees can help or hinder the adoption of change.