Excerpt from The Catalyst by Jonah Berger , plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Catalyst

How to Change Anyone's Mind

by Jonah Berger

The Catalyst by Jonah Berger X
The Catalyst by Jonah Berger
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  • Published:
    Mar 2020, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Ian Muehlenhaus
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

CASE STUDY
How to Change the Boss's Mind

To see easing uncertainty in action, it helps to visit a place where even the best new ideas are often stymied by the barriers to change. And that is the office.

* * *

The new project seemed doomed. As Jacek Nowak walked out of the meeting, his colleagues' voices kept ringing in his ears. "Why does this matter?" one said. "This is a waste of time," barked another. Even if they did all the work to implement the program, there was no guarantee that customers would care. That clients would actually appreciate the effort they went through. Things were generally going well, so why change?

Jacek had worked in banking for more than a decade. He started in customer service, supporting administrative processes in a bank branch, and worked his way up from there. He had conducted workshops, coordinated training programs, and helped shape recruitment processes. Eventually, rather than training new hires himself, he was responsible for managing a team of trainers. As a branch office manager at Santander Bank, he was responsible for customer service at multiple branches. He managed training and development so that employees would provide the best experience possible.

But some recent mystery shopper research had shown disappointing results. Things were satisfactory—fine, even—but something was missing. Most employees had worked for the company for a while; they knew the products and procedures inside and out. But after repeating the same activities again and again, year after year, the implementation had become mechanical. Staff smiled at customers, just like the handbook suggested, but it was out of obligation rather than any real warmth. Employees stood up when clients came in, as they were supposed to, but briefly and without conviction.

Standards were technically being met or even exceeded, but a closer look revealed troubling patterns. Key performance indicators, like sales of larger loans, insurance, or longer loan periods, were lower than they should have been. Too many people were closing accounts and switching to the competition. Clients were generally satisfied but didn't trust employees enough to talk about their real needs.

Jacek knew that a change was needed. He wanted to improve customer experience. To deepen relationships. To encourage customers to see employees as advisors or helpers rather than as salespeople.

He surveyed best practices from different industries and found that many improvements in customer experience involved some sort of surprise and delight. Surprising people with small gifts and actions made them see that they were recognized and valued. A high-end hotel, for example, greeted customers by name when they walked in and had their favorite beverage waiting in the hotel room.

Jacek thought doing something similar could help the bank. Sending customers cards on their birthdays, greeting them by name, or celebrating their important life milestones. A customer service initiative that would strengthen customers' emotional connection and improve employee morale.

But when he pitched the idea to his boss and other members of senior management, most were opposed. As industries go, banking is extremely traditional. Formally dressed employees sitting behind large wooden desks, much as they did twenty years ago. A focus on interest rates and checking accounts rather than customer experience or employee engagement.

Sending customers handwritten birthday cards? The bank's leadership was skeptical. There's no way this will work, they protested. Branch employees were used to interacting with customers a particular way and they weren't keen on changing. Things were going well enough already, and senior management didn't see the need to mix things up. Any change was seen as a threat.

Jacek tried providing more information. He shared research on customers' feelings and preferences and offered data suggesting that price was not the most important thing when people make decisions. He even had an outside consultant specializing in customer experience come in to talk about the latest tools and approaches.

From The Catalyst by Jonah Berger. Copyright © 2020 by Social Dynamics Group, LLC. Excerpted with permission by Simon & Schuster.

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