Photo by Steve Johnson

Is it a superior product offering that draws them away? Well, possibly. But that’s only half the story. In the digital age, it is speedy and helpful customer service that seems to make all the difference in these once-famously slow and frustrating interactions.

The client that is the focus of this Change Diary knew the importance of constant improvements in the customer experience, and enlisted my aid in managing an organisational change designed to ensure that their High Net Worth and Ultra-High Net Worth customers were offered a customer experience like no other.

Their solution? The creation of a brand-new customer experience for these most discerning and profitable clients – a Private Wealth service offering that would replace the organisation’s current Executive Banking service.

It was apparent early on in the process that in addition to the challenge of creating the new department and implementing its new strategies (the dissolution of Executive Banking, the introduction of a new CRM system, and many others), we would also be met with a certain amount of resistance from the affected parties. With careers being affected, the potential for pushback was high. It was therefore essential to ensure the R 38 000 000 transformation went according to plan.

ADKAR: The Structured Approach

In light of the resistance we were experiencing and with the careers of 48 affected individuals hanging in the balance, we knew that a sustained communications plan and effective stakeholder engagement would be the organisation’s only hope of having the change implemented smoothly. What was perceived as a career threat and a disruption to existing team dynamics would need to be re-framed as an opportunity. Not only as an opportunity for the business to delight its customers in new ways, but also an opportunity for the affected parties in the Executive Banking teams to upskill and advance to new heights professionally themselves. We laid out a comprehensive communications plan that included the following approaches:

From ExCo to Line Managers:

A testament to the power of strong leadership in times of change

Well-planned communications can only go so far. It is support and sponsorship from organizational leaders that gives those communications life and meaning – and so it was in this case. Despite initial resistance from some stakeholders, several laudable heroes stepped forward to champion the change in the eyes of the Branches and the Executive Banking teams.

  • The Customer Value Proposition Head played a vital role in helping the impacted stakeholders understand why the change was necessary for the organisation to thrive in the long run, taking ownership of the project and ensuring buy-in with every engagement scheduled.
  • The Head of Executive banking also played a huge role in championing the transition within the Executive Banking teams and allaying their anxieties.
  • The organisation’s MD also took the lead from the top, spending many hours engaging face-to-face with the branches and impacted staff.
  • Sponsorship was highly active, engaging and visible, driving the change with positivity and empathy, and reassuring the affected staff that they would not find themselves out of work. Using a number of communication channels and stakeholder engagement events, the sponsors actively encouraged line managers to support their staff and continually sold the benefits of the change for both the affected business units and the organisation as a whole.
  • Line managers played an essential role, participating in various engagements with the project teams and change managers during the development phases. This gave them an opportunity to discuss the changing roles and processes and to offer their perspectives and advice. They were actively included in design workshops, and offered both pre- and post-transition coaching sessions.

In times of uncertainty, people need structure and reassurance that their interests are being considered. Constant communication, tailored to the specific needs of the affected individuals, were an essential part of drumming up support for the project and addressing resistance from anxious Branch Managers. Openness and transparency of communication was essential in winning the trust of the affected parties, and eventually securing their ongoing enthusiasm within the organisation. Above all, this project also impressed upon me just how important the “How” and “When” are when it comes to communications. Timing and strategy are everything, and have the power to impact your efforts either positively or negatively.