Change Management Lessons: Learning From Best Buy and Netflix

Change Management Lessons: Learning From Best Buy and Netflix
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Preparing Your Customers for Change and Innovation

BNET reporter Erik Sherman offered up a great post on shopping for that must-have computer for his kid at Best Buy. Seems the store didn’t have the computer in stock and the Best Buy closest to him was forty miles away.

Like other mega-giant stores, at Best Buy you can order items online and have them shipped directly to you or to the nearest store for pick-up. The problem Best Buy seems to be having is two-part according to Sherman.

While Sherman did place an order with an acceptable delivery date, the delivery date came and went with no computer although the marketing and support departments of Best Buy seemed to think Sherman and his daughter did receive the computer and were happily surfing the Web. They kept sending out email after email on suggestions for success. The problem—these departments, ordering and shipping and marketing and support, apparently don’t communicate very well or, as Sherman says, “neither knows what the other is doing and when.”

That’s bad for customer service surveys because customers will either skip them altogether or slam the company so severely top experts will run in all directions attempting to fix a problem they could have handled very well initially via some great change management skills.

Netflix also recently garnered some dissatisfaction from its customers on increasing prices, making customers choose between streaming or DVD delivery or both, apologizing after too many angry complaints and, finally, announcing a new division or sister company—Qwikster.

The heads of Netflix’s customers are still spinning trying to determine which is best, Netflix streaming, DVDs or Qwikster, and the apologies from pool-side seated CEOs didn’t seem to help much.

Again, people don’t like change and change is inevitable, so both Best Buy and Netflix could handle things better if they were better prepared. I hate to pick on just these two mega-giants because it’s not just them—many brick-and-mortar stores attempting to have a bigger web presence as well seem to fall flat. Why? It’s simple, folks—there is no communication or plan for change integration from departmental heads on “let’s try this” or “we need to have a better plan” or “we need to make the entire adventure an easy transition on our customers.” The what-ifs are never asked and, instead, it’s full steam ahead too fast, leaving customers standing on the train platform asking, what the heck?

Skipping the Nightmare

With every business, no matter how large or small, looking to increase revenues, or for project leaders and teams looking to increase productivity, short cuts, risk management and change management tools are often skipped in the hopes of fast returns. This unfortunately only hurts the end user who had better be your most important factor or you might as well shut the doors right now.

For example, my sister who lives in Ohio was finally ready to buy a laptop and hand over total rights to the PC to her daughter. Best Buy seemed like the choice of most she asked so off she went. Not only did she get passed from one salesperson to the next, the sales staff on the floor were distracted by other customers when they should have been engaging her and were not very knowledgeable about the laptops in stock that would work best for her. You guessed it, she left.

While many of us hate the principles behind the mega superstore Wal-Mart, this was her next stop. However, apparently this Wal-Mart manager had enough sense to hire a computer geek who knew his laptops, and she walked out with what she wanted in a short amount of time, happy as a pea in a pod.

Many of you project leaders may think this is all about improving customer service and you’re partly right, but when economic times change or even if your business goals, management methodologies, staff or upper management changes, you better prepare your teams (and customers) for these changes or they will indeed go somewhere else. They’ll seek out project management firms who seem together, fit and trim and can give them what they want, on time and on budget.

Change Because You Must

Dissatisfied Netflix Customer

Let’s offer up a project management scenario here. Let’s say you’re given a project to provide communication software for a brick-and-mortar store to its new online store. Hmmm, sound familiar? Instead of looking at the project as two separate entities, you’d better think of them as one individual entity under God, so to speak.

Both the brick-and-mortar store and the online venue are owned by the same folks and they won’t want two plans for communication. They’ll want one streamlined effort that allows the right hand to know what the left hand is doing—all the time.

For example, as far as inventory, you will need to find a way to let the online store know immediately when the brick and mortar store sells its last best-selling widget. If you don’t and the online customer service department sends a prospective customer to his closest brick and mortar store only to find he can’t buy what he wants (but maybe could have ordered it when he was interacting with online reps), he’ll soon be looking for another way to get what he wants. The chance he’ll wander back online to the same venue are slim to none—he’s already unhappy.

How It’s Done

All project managers and leaders understand the need for change management plans and handling change resistance—even when it comes to the end user. Great project managers, however, don’t throw the plan in as an afterthought but in the initial phase of the project to ensure a Best Buy or Netflix debacle doesn’t happen to their project.

Here at Bright Hub, we’ve got a great example of a change management plan you can download and use in your project planning phase. In fact, at the end of this article, in the references section, you’ll find even more change management must-have tools to ensure success and not failure.

None of us likes to admit we’ve experienced bad planning, but if you have and you are strong enough to share it here with your peers to aid others in what not to do, we’d love to hear from you—use the comments section below.

Help in the form of learning by doing or learning by learning what not to do is often the best gift you can give a fellow project leader, so put the pride away and let’s start a discussion on how to improve change management skills across the board!