What’s the CX Butterfly Effect?

In short...

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It’s likely you’re familiar with the chaos theory known as the Butterfly effect. It states that, “…something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” 

Essentially, it describes how a small change or action at one point in time may have knock-on effects further down the line.  

The Butterfly effect also appears in CX, where your actions – your team’s, your company’s, or yours as an individual – at one point in time may have far-reaching ramifications for your clients in the future.

The Butterfly effect involves long-term effects

I want to make one thing clear: the Butterfly effect takes time for its long-term effects to become apparent. 

This may feel contrary to our fast-paced, short-term world, where we’re constantly looking to seize opportunities and take risks to reach goals and smash our targets, doing everything as quickly as possible on every already saturated channel. 

It’s a lot.

What’s more, we remain under all this pressure despite the fact we all know – even if we don’t necessarily accept it – that things just do not move that quickly. 

There is no magic bullet, here. Building solutions and effecting meaningful change takes time. 

I truly believe that, by looking to role models who are the exceptions rather than the rules, we are using the wrong examples!

Why do we look to tech giants who are essentially so unique that they become unicorns or white elephants – Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, SpaceX, farfetch… – for inspiration?

Clearly, they’re successful and innovative which makes them fascinating. You’ll find plenty of case studies among them for whatever best practice you’re looking to achieve. But what does your company really have in common with any of these tech titans? And why are you comparing your situation to them..?

It may be exciting but when there is so little commonality, you can’t really call it benchmarking. 

Be reasonable – stop comparing yourself to unicorns and trying to dance on rainbows. It’s an unnecessary exercise that just makes you feel bad.

I have something better for you to focus on instead… your customer.

To become relevant and successful, focus on helping your customer. They should be your benchmark.

It’s not about you or your success, it’s about the company’s ambition to provide the best possible solutions to its customers.

I understand it’s a new mindset. What with digital first, omnichannel and now digital transformation, it can feel like there’s a new trend every other year.

I get that it’s confusing but we’re actually talking about the same thing. There is one element that all these things have in common… people.

Your customers and the people from & around the company.

Sure it’s easy to say and putting it into practice can be another thing altogether. Change is hard and it starts at the top. 

Putting the customer first is a cultural thing.

Companies build projects and run businesses with big ambitions. Traditionally this has meant big, sometimes huge, projects that take years to set up and build.

But this system does not work anymore. It is an outdated methodology that is being replaced by a more modern, agile approach.

Now companies have to put an idea out there as soon as possible, to test it and measure its impact. Otherwise it’ll be too late. 

The speed is just one of the reasons companies are moving towards an agile system.

I know some of you might shudder at the mention of AGILE…

The first time you heard about it, it sounded like a miracle for getting things done… But since you started using it in your projects, you’ve been under increased pressure and have been facing more friction than ever… right? I feel you.

This can happen and lead to a traumatic learning curve when you’re using something that looks like agile, is called agile but is not, actually, agile.

I repeat: change is hard.

Agile is initially an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to customers faster and with fewer headaches. Instead of betting everything on a “big bang” launch, an agile team delivers work in small, easily digestible, increments.

Yes my friend, Agile is actually a system to make things easier; to break down tasks so they’re not overwhelming. Plus, it’s faster!

It looks like a dream but I’ve witnessed so many pseudo-agile nightmares… Should I record a People&Digital podcast about the pros and cons of this method, so you don’t feel alone on this agile journey? Let me know if that would help!

Agile breaks a big project down into smaller chunks of deliverables

This is really powerful for several reasons:

  • You learn your way to results. Every deliverable provides an opportunity to check if you are still heading in the right direction. You can constantly check “does that work?” and, if the answer is “no”, you’ve saved yourself from any nasty surprises at the end by catching errors early on;
  • You have to consider the ecosystem constantly. Although this sounds overwhelming, it’s actually a very helpful mantra. This will keep you from going down the rabbit hole or wasting time on details that do not matter!
  • Collaboration is the key ingredient. In an agile system, nobody is working on their own. Communication is KEY;
  • It allows you to fix issues faster and before small problems become big problems.

I’m not saying that Agile is THE solution to solve problems. I’m saying that breaking things down and fixing small things can make a big difference.

See?! we’re getting closer to the CX Butterfly effect. 

So what is the CX butterfly effect?

Imagine each interaction as a drop of water that falls into the pool of Customer Experience. See how each drop disturbs the surface and radiates outwards, how these ripples either combine with others to form larger waves and crests or clash and cancel one another out? 

Now, slow these movements down in your mind and replay them, imagining every possible outcome or scenario.

Turn the ripples of influence to your advantage by ensuring each client interaction with your business — no matter how small or seemingly insignificant — is configured to deliver the best experience possible for the person on the other end. These engagements are far from trivial, and they have the power to build meaningful rapport over time.

Small actions taken today will have an impact later down the line. To avoid a catastrophe and encourage positive experiences, you have to focus on your customer.

Really understand their goals, values, habits and their beliefs so that every small action you take today, is positive for them or just for the company.

Some short-term opportunities can look very attractive because you will have short term results that will help your KPI’s, your bonus or just to shine in front of your management. But don’t forget your responsibility here. 

Your job is to collaborate with your coworkers to provide solutions for your customers that elicit positive emotions. This is where you need a CX mindset.

I know, I know: CX starts with company culture. This is absolutely correct.

But, whilst your C-suite is busy deciding whether to step into a decent digital transformation by adopting a CX culture or not, you can already start to have an impact. Right now.

How to start this positive Butterfly Effect?

When considering your next project, please remember the following:

  • Focus on your Customer;
  • Don’t build a big project – build an ambitious and tangible plan;
  • Break this plan down into small and realistic pieces then build your roadmap;
  • Start small to move faster;
  • Learn from your mistakes;
  • Fix little things before they become big problems;
  • Don’t forget the CX Butterfly effect so you keep in mind that every touchpoint is important.

When you start to work with your colleagues and other departments, you’ll see how much easier it is to collaborate around a piece of your plan, instead of agreeing around big projects.

Now you’re familiar with the CX butterfly effect and you know why it’s important. Let me know how this advice works for you!


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Amélie Beerens


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