Reasons Customers Resist Change

“Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers, and business.”-Mark Sanborn

It is human nature to resist change – for whatever reason. From a business perspective, customers resist change too and for a number of reasons. The top most reason is perhaps that they may remain unconvinced that the company is offering a better solution. They see no real reason for the change therefore, and view the change as being done for the sake of implementing ‘something new’. It is natural for anyone to ‘hit back’ if they believe that the status quo is being turned on its head for no good reason and it would behove companies to convince customers that the new solution being provided is best for all involved.

Since companies know that customers resist change, it would be best to approach every change from their perspective. Keep customers in mind to ascertain whether they would view the change as beneficial and in line with their expectations. It would be smart to check back with a few trusted and loyal customers before implementing any large-scale and all-inclusive change. Failure to get buy-in could backfire and make customers resist change, even if it could prove beneficial for all over time. All the investments made in the ‘improvements’ could be in vain if they are turned down by customers. Not only will your company suffer losses in terms of money and time, it could also seriously damage the reputation and lead to customer churn. No customer would like to remain associated with a company that even seemingly ignores their opinion and suggestions.

Customers resist change when they believe that it will prove to be a dampener on the kind of experiences they currently have with the company. Customers are constantly in a hurry, have to deal with several changes and interruptions, and overall deal with a frenzied lifestyle. They associate with companies that can take away some of the stress and manage a certain part of their business with the least number of disturbances. It would be a normal reaction on their part to resist any changes or disruptions in the ‘routine’ manner of doing business – they do not want to deal with it. The resistance would be more if the change were announced without preparing them for it first – they would rather their world changed as per their decision and would rather not be forced to change. Customers resist change when it is seemingly forced and disrupts the way they conduct business or associate with a company. A company may add new features to a product or service, or repackage a loved product, but unless these changes are deemed necessary by customers, they are bound to fail and lead to customer ire and churn.

While customers are used to a hectic pace and world that is constantly evolving, they resist change made by companies because they would rather be in control where they can. Again, this is a human trait – we value constancy and structure, and customers resist change because this stability is challenged and is a cause of annoyance. To make any change successful, it must be acceptable primarily to customers, who would be the end users. Based on the utility of a company / business, customers make decisions on whether to associate with them or not – and making random changes without buy-in could make customers shun such companies for good.

As mentioned, customers must view the changes as being necessary and something that they are happy to include in their life and business. When the association moves along smoothly, sans change, the buying frequency and pattern for customers remains constant. A sudden and seemingly unwarranted change could draw the attention of customers to lapses and make them want to reassess the association.  When a company’s most loyal, profitable, and long standing customers, begin re-evaluating their buying needs and patterns, it could spell trouble – a drop in business and or even lead to looking at forming an association with a different vendor. Customers resist change and anything that seemingly takes away control and focus from them. Customers prefer to be in business with companies that make them feel special and valued – by making changes that they do not want, companies would make customers feel unimportant.

While improvements and innovation is good, customers resist change that add unwanted ‘features’ and or benefits, that seemingly get in the way of smooth operation and usage. There is no point complicating products – customers want ease and seamless operation and changing things around without checking with them would make them uncomfortable and lead to lowered satisfaction levels. Customers would resist anything that seems inflated and does not add significant value to them. If a company neglects the needs and expectations of customers by driving ‘improvements’ they do not want, customers are definitely going to reject and resent the changes. Ensure that improvements and changes to anything that would directly affect customers, must be made only post consultation with them. Remember to show value and benefit to customers if you expect them to embrace any changes you wish to make.

Customers resist change when companies fail to appreciate and value the intelligence, knowledge, and experience of their customers. They need to be informed of why the change is necessary and they would be well equipped to provide value-added suggestions and feedback. Customers do seek value and that ‘something more’ from every company they interact with – but they also expect that they play a major role in affecting any change that would alter the way they do business.

Another important reason due to which customers resist change is the fear of seeming uninformed. A change to product design or features would mean that customers would need to go through the entire ‘learning and educating’ curve again. This not only detracts from their time, it also presents them as less informed than the company they are in business with. This is never good for the ‘customer ego’ and if a company dumps a change on them, they would much rather move to a company that makes them ‘look good’ and considers their opinion before affecting any changes. Even if customers decide to ‘learn’, there is a possibility that the learning process may not be as successful as anticipated or they discover that the ‘change’ is harder than they believed it to be – customers will give up the company and its products. As mentioned, with the many challenges customers face, expecting them to be patient or give your product more than a few minutes of their attention would be a self-defeating move.

Imagine a product that holds emotional and personal importance and then imagine it being changed ‘overnight’. How would you react as a customer? Customers resist change when it messes with the emotional reasons due to which they buy something. If a product has been an integral part of a customer’s life and business, changing it without taking those ‘emotions’ into consideration would most definitely have serious repercussions. Even a slight difference could turn customers away from the product and maybe away from the company too.

Before affecting any change, a company must understand the needs and preferences of their customers. If your company truly believes that the change would be good for all, it would still need to place a compelling case before its customers in order for them to agree and not resist it. The ability to bridge the gap between customer expectations and alleviating their pain with the need to evolve will make room for changes to become acceptable and successful.

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