CX lessons: 5 pep talks for navigating resistance to change
Updated: Oct 28
Great customer experiences don’t just happen. They’re deliberately designed. But even the smartest, most business-savvy deliberate designs usually require navigating resistance to change from colleagues and co-workers.
That’s because those deliberate designs require colleagues and co-workers to change something about how they work or think.
Throughout my CX career, I’ve met hundreds of fabulous customer experience professionals. Some have blazed unbelievable trails! And they all had one thing in common:
They all dealt with resistance to change. Not a single CX leader skated through without experiencing the frustration of internal resistance to their work.
You might be surprised that the most frequently asked first question among my clients, prospects, and up-and-coming colleagues has nothing to do with the technical competencies of CX as a business discipline. It’s usually something like: how do I get people to listen and care?
It’s a good first question because I’ve learned through experience that understanding and navigating resistance to change is just as important as being technically proficient in the practice of CX.
Here are five of the most applicable pieces of advice I have collected over the years on how to approach and manage resistance to change.
Stop saying all people resist all change. It’s just not true.
If someone offers you a pay raise or shows up at your door with a check for $1 million and says the money is going to change your life, you probably wouldn’t say, “No thanks!” This TEDx Talk points out that if you believe all people resist all change then you might be standing in your own way in your quest to facilitate organizational change.
Resistance is a form of feedback. Are you listening?
There are many reasons why people resist change. The biggest takeaway from this classic Harvard Business Review piece: resistance is a form of feedback. Resisting resistance only adds to the friction of change. When people resist change, change leaders should take it as feedback.
Don’t try to overcome resistance. Uncover it, instead.
Resistant behavior is not the real problem. The real problem is in the underlying reasons why people resist change. In her 2015 TEDx Talk, Heather Stagle gave some timeless advice: Treat resistance as something to uncover, not something to overcome. Understand why people resist.
Why it takes more than communication to get the job done.
Change requires communication and engagement. DeAnne Aguirre’s tough love advice: it is a mistake to think that these are the same thing. Leaders, middle managers, and early advocates must speak and act in visibly different ways all the time for change to be effective.
Watch your language.
We CX pros are passionate people. But in my experience, you simply cannot pound your first on the table and shout “CUSTOMERS!” to executives who are juggling voluminous priorities. It just sends them into resistance mode.
Instead, make the talk track about doing what’s best for the business. This inevitably leads back to the customer work, anyway.
Leadership Requires Agility
Resistance to change is just part of the deal when you’re doing the CX leadership work. So, when you’re working on change, and you seriously wish you could quit, think about and celebrate your wins so far.
Then, come back to these pearls of wisdom, catch your breath, and keep going. The work has always been, and will always be, worth doing.
This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience.