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Gloves on the boardroom table

The purchasing director piled gloves on the boardroom table and suddenly people couldn’t wait to solve the problem.

I’m paraphrasing from a story in Dan and Chip Heath’s book, Switch. My colleague Kitty Radcliff recently mentioned in her blog that this is our feature book club reading. It’s loaded with ideas and stories and I found that it related particularly well to how customer advocates and strategists can get people engaged to encourage a more successful, customer focused culture.

Here’s a quick version of my favorite story from the book and how it relates to those of us trying to get more out of our voice of the customer programs.

A purchasing director discovered a wide variation in the price of gloves purchased in his manufacturing organization. While he knew he could save the company money, he knew some would resist. The easy way to address the issue was to put a spreadsheet together listing all the prices in a rational manner assuming that rational human beings would make rational decisions about better ways to manage resources.

He knew that people aren’t rational.

Instead of inviting this opportunity to poke holes in the information he assembled, he gathered samples of all the different types of gloves in the facility and attached price tags to them. He spread them across a boardroom table and simply invited people to take a look. Naturally people were surprised. In fact, they quickly decided this was a problem and something had to be done about it.

He connected at an emotional level which got them engaged and prompted action.

Now, consider how customer advocates deliver customer insights to the users of customer information. How do they react? If they are rational, they might see a need and take action. However, they may also be skeptical about the information, pick it apart, disagree with it, or simply dismiss it.

However, when we connect at an emotional level, people tend to spring it to action. One complaint, poor customer experience, or a stinging comment on a survey can carry more weight than a pile of stats.

We tend to try so hard to present rational conclusions. Maybe we should try just as hard to make an emotional connection.

Patrick Gibbons
Senior Vice President

P.S. Two notes – you can read the full story about gloves on page 12-15 of the book Switch. Also, about a year ago, one of my blogs contained an excellent story (by the same authors) of a presentation with a high impact emotional connection.

About the Author

Patrick Gibbons

Patrick Gibbons

As Principal and Senior Vice President of Marketing for Walker, Gibbons has global responsibility for definition, branding, and promotion of the company and its solutions. Gibbons has published and/or contributed to a number of articles, papers, and blogs on customer intelligence topics and has a regular column in CRM Magazine. He has been a featured speaker at a wide range of conferences, and has produced a series of educational events for customer experience leaders.

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