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Use Commitment Science to Drive CX Change

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 11/09/2017

At Heart of the Customer, our team is reading Influence, the classic book by Robert Cialdini. While it’s an older book, it has a ton to offer to anybody looking to build action, including in the area of customer experience (CX).

This week we’re up to Chapter 3, Commitment. Cialdini uses a ton of examples, including Chinese prison camps in Korea, fraternities, and small kids playing with toys. Through these examples, Cialdini shows how by convincing others to publicly claim their support for a specific philosophy, you are leading people to subsequently act in a manner consistent with that philosophy – even if they previously did not strongly support such a position.

Keys to Committment

To make the public pledge stick, Cialdini lays out a few requirements. The commitment must be active, public, effortful, and done without strong outside pressure, such as a large reward or threat.

Our book club is tomorrow, so I’m sure the team will have their own feedback on how we can use commitment. But I can see a clear application to CX pros.

We don’t really need help to increase our own commitment. If you’re reading this, odds are you’re also a fan of customer-focused change. Unfortunately, most of our peers from marketing, operations and other parts of the company have conflicting priorities. Unless you can find ways to keep the customer’s needs top of mind, you risk losing momentum. It’s here where Cialdini offers some helpful tools.

What follows is just one idea. I’m sure you can develop your own. But it addresses one problem that occurs when everybody in your organization signs a pledge to support customers, and then goes right back to doing things the same old way.

Many customer rooms end with asking participants to sign a pledge to actively support the customer. This seems good, and it certainly makes a short-term impression. But the correlation between customer rooms and strong cultural change isn’t always that strong. What’s missing? While it’s public, and somewhat active, this pledge isn’t effortful. In fact, in our attempt to reach as many people as possible, it becomes effortless.

A public pledge is a great idea to drive commitment, but only if it’s paired with a task requiring effort. Consider adding some sort of test to your customer room. Require participants to review artifacts in detail to pass an exam. If you have good research, such as the drivers of customer loyalty, sprinkle these throughout your room. Don’t make it too obvious – require participants to spend some time reviewing the room before they take the test. Then make the test difficult. Pilot it ahead of time – if more than half of your pilot can pass the test without going through your room review, it’s too easy.

Only allow people to sign the customer pledge after they’ve passed the test. Save it for those who are willing to put in the time. Then, once they pass, publicize it like crazy. Put the person’s name on the wall. Email her boss that she passed the test, and has committed to putting the customer first. Follow up a few months later to remind them of their pledge.

Making it harder to sign the customer pledge is counter-intuitive. After all, don’t we want everybody to sign the customer pledge?

Actually, no. Presenting a pledge that anybody can sign isn’t effortful. It also risks public pressure, which breaks the “no outside pressure” rule. Require work to sign the pledge.

It’s not intuitive. But, as Cialdini shows us, the Rules of Influence aren’t always what you would expect.

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