Making change difficult

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Vocus Demand Success 2014

The corollary to easing the pain of change is to make change difficult. Here are three examples:

Social networks try to make change difficult by sheer mass. It’s where the people are, like it or not. It’s where your friends mostly are (or that’s what their hope is, anyway).

Operating systems make change difficult by making it expensive. You invest in apps and then to switch means re-buying all of them, because what works on one platform doesn’t work on another.

Contracts make change difficult or impossible by making departure financially onerous. Lengthy legal proceedings, court costs, and penalties keep you locked in.

All of these kinds of change resistance mechanisms have one thing in common: they are the resort of companies that are not the best in class. When you are the best experience, the best product or service, you will lose some customers to churn. However, a good portion of them come back when they realize that an overly clever salesperson promised what couldn’t be delivered. Being the absolute best at what you do and delivering on the promises you make is the only guaranteed change prevention mechanism. The pain of changing and losing what you have to offer keeps people around. The catch is that the price of being the best is very high.

Using these lock-in mechanisms makes sense if you are not the best in class. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – if you are self-aware enough to realize that you aren’t the best in class, then they make logical sense to use. They are generally accepted as solid business practices. Be aware that making them overbearing risks your reputation as unhappy customers complain until they can escape – and the longer you hold onto them, the less likely they are to come back or refer colleagues.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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