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Dealing with resistance to digital transformation and channel shift

Implementing a successful channel shift strategy can be difficult for many reasons. One of the key factors that makes such projects complex is the number of different stakeholder groups that are involved. Any significant change-related project will always encounter resistance but channel shift project managers need to anticipate and respond to change from many different groups, each of whom may have different concerns that need to be addressed. Stakeholder management is key to the success of any channel shift or digital transformation programme. This means identifying what resistance might come from each group and having clear strategies in place to address them. Resistance can come from many different quarters but there are three main groups that you’ll definitely need to consider.

Resistance from staff

Most practical resistance to channel shift comes from internal staff. The challenge here is that there can be many different reasons why staff might be concerned about channel shift so you’ll need to have considered each of these and have strategies to address them in your organisation. The most common reasons for channel shift resistance are:

  • Concerns about job security

Staff are often resistant to channel shift efforts because they’re concerned that such measures are purely about saving money and will, ultimately, lead to redundancies. However, our experience is that this is often a misconception. Indeed, the introduction of digital technology often enables the automation of boring or repetitious tasks that staff don’t tend to enjoy anyway, and frees up their time to focus on other more rewarding areas of work that require more human interaction and creative thinking.

Key to success here can also be pointing out how employees might benefit themselves from digital transformation. For example, mobile working technologies can free employees from being tied to the office, enabling them to work anywhere, reduce the amount of time they have to spend commuting to and from the office and enabling them to spend more time doing the parts of their jobs that they find the most rewarding.

  • Concerns about lack of relevant skills or experience

Staff may also be reluctant to embrace digital channels such as social media or live chat, for example, because they’re concerned that they don’t have the skills to be able to use them effectively. People are often resistant to change that requires them to learning new methods of working. It’s also a mistake to assume that people who are comfortable using a tool in their personal life (Facebook, for example) will also be comfortable using it professionally.

Training is critical, as we have written about previously on this blog. A schedule of training needs to be incorporated into any channel shift or digital transformation strategy. Work with HR to develop a training plan that’s aimed at retaining the talent you already have in your organisation by giving people opportunities to do more. Assess the skills you have already and identify gaps where you might need external support or further recruitment. Don’t overlook the development of such skills amongst your existing staff

  • Lack of understanding

Often resistance to change is because staff don’t understand what’s happening or the rationale behind it. A top down management approach can lead to staff who are reluctant to come along for the ride because they feel that they’re the last to know about anything. Communication is vital. Involve employees from the start. Ask for volunteers to help develop the strategy and tap into the expertise that your staff may already have. Communicate clearly at all stages of the project so that people know what’s happening, why it’s happening and when as well as giving them a clear idea of how they’re going to be affected personally.

Resistance from customers

Key here is to make sure that customers have a choice of channels through which to interact rather than being forced into a particular channel with which they may not be comfortable. Customer experience should be the driver behind any channel shift strategy. The aim is to open up new channels that customers want to be able to use rather than to force them into using particular channels that they may not want to use. Resist the temptation to assume that all young people want to use social media, or that older people will always want to use the telephone. Your channel shift strategy should be evidence-based rather than driven by assumptions and hunches.

We often find that actually customers are keen on using new digital channels in theory but they don’t use them in practice either because they’re not aware of them or because it’s not clear how to use them. Work with your communications team on the launch of any new channel. Who needs to know about it and what’s the best way of letting them know? With the best will in the world, you won’t get any adoption of your new channels if people simply don’t know that they exist.

Likewise, if you drive traffic to your new channels but, once there, people find them complex to understand or hard to use then you’re unlikely to get any long term lift in usage. Thorough user testing prior to launch is critical here. Don’t rely on members of the project team to do this testing – people who are familiar with a particular system can’t then experience it as it would appear to someone who was using it for the very first time.

Resistance from elected members

The third group that can sometimes resist channel shift and digital transformation are elected members. In my experience this is often because elected members are not familiar with the technology concerned themselves and hence may assume that no one else would want to use it either. This is particularly the case with social media and other digital technologies such as web chats.

It’s also not unusual for elected members to have significant misconceptions about such new technology – for example assuming that social media will only be used by younger people when it fact the main users of digital services are often the elderly who cannot easily physically access services in other ways.

Here education is often the key, helping elected members to understand the reality and perhaps also helping them to become more familiar with the technology. Ultimately, evidence-based development works too so use all the analytics and data that’s available to you to demonstrate how such services are actually being used and challenge incorrect assumptions.

 

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