Building the Business Case: No Pain, No Gain

One of the most-commonly requested needs – often as a result of CEO/executive asks – is to build the business case for the business to focus on the customer experience. (It’s painful just to write that without thinking about this open letter to CEOs, excerpted from my book, Customer Understanding.)

When it comes to customer experience, the biggest requirement is really a shift in how we think about – and how we do things – when it comes to the customer. We’re talking about change. We claim that change is hard (I know it can be), and our excuses behind corporate inertia haven’t changed in more than half a century. But, often and especially when it comes to customer experience, while it is/can be painful, change is necessary and not impossible.

But here’s the thing about that pain: Is the pain of change worse than the pain of not changing?

Four years ago today (ironically), I wrote Shift Happens – Or Does It? In that article, I shared some of the reasons companies (well, the executives within the companies) can’t change or won’t execute on change. Today, I’ll share four poisons that keep companies from changing, according to an article posted on Chief Executive last fall. I love that it starts with the drivers of change: achieving something or avoiding something. In customer experience terms, achieving some outcome might be to grow revenue by 20%, while avoiding some outcome might be to stop the bleeding and avoid losing another 10% of your customers. That’s where you need to start building the business case. Do you want to drive a positive desired outcome with your initiative, or do you want to avoid a negative outcome? What language do your executives speak? What are their biggest pains or desired gains?

As for the organizational poisons that keep change from happening, they list four.

  1. Complacency. I love this: “Complacency is the narcotic that dulls the drive for change.” I’ve written about complacency before. It’s an innovation killer, no doubt. As the article notes, everything you do is just good enough.
  2. Arrogance. This one is a similar poison, “but with a shot of ego.” That sense that you’re the best or that you’re better than everyone else, so why change.
  3. The Fallacy of Extrapolation. The thinking here is that current trends or what’s happening today will continue into the future. Your business is performing well today, so why wouldn’t that continue going forward.
  4. Psychological Inertia. Let’s just keep doing things the way we’ve always done them. You fall into patterns and form habits that are just comfortable. It’s what you do, without even thinking twice about any implications.


In wrapping up the article, the author cited some Case for Change examples that can be used to build your business case.

  • If we don’t optimize our product portfolio, then revenues and margins will continue to shrink, and our future will be at risk. (pain)
  • If we optimize our product portfolio, then revenues and margins will grow, which will help secure our future. (gain)
  • If we don’t adopt and utilize targeted technologies, then we will continue to lose customers and new customer opportunities. (pain)
  • If we adopt and utilize targeted technologies, then we will gain relevance and recapture customers and market share. (gain)
  • If we don’t attract and hire the right people, then growth will cause us to implode. (pain)
  • If we attract and hire the right people, then we will have the capabilities to support growth. (gain)


I like the “If we do X, then we achieve Y” approach to these statements. That’s not anything new, but I know sometimes CX professionals focus so much on the work that goes into building the business case that they forget to state it in a clear and concise way to make their points (supported with the research that went into it). Keep it simple. Start your ask with the If/Then statement.

Nothing changes until somebody feels something. –GapingVoid

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. She recently published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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