Why CX Leaders need Stakeholder Analysis to Get Buy-in

Black and white image of 1930 style men and a classic car.

Let’s start the morning with mobsters. Because it’s January, and mobsters are more interesting than the annual performance reviews hanging over your head like a cartoon anvil, ready to crush you with 10,000 lbs of monotony.

Brad demonstrated the corporate value of excellence by improving operational processes, streamlining department communications, and always submitting his expense reports on time, even when he was working 37 hours/day and got hospitalized for burnout-induced heart palpitations. Great job on those expense reports, Brad!

Yuck. So, mobsters!

Leo: You do anything to help your friends, and anything to kick your enemies.

Tom: Wrong, Leo. You do things for a reason.

This dialogue comes from Miller’s Crossing, a prohibition-era mob flick packed with plot twists, intrigue, and the best mob-hit-gone-wrong scene ever committed to film.

Leo is the mob boss, clinging to power by his fingernails while a former underling attempts a coup. Tom is Leo’s second-in-command.

They may be on the same side, but the two men couldn’t be more different. Leo is passionate, driven by instinct and emotion, seeing the world in a twisted mobster version of good and evil: friends and enemies. Leo’s world is simple—take every opportunity to help your friends or hurt your enemies. And this strong-arm approach lands him in a world of trouble.

Tom is different. When Leo wants to “kick their enemies,” Tom asks why. “Think about what it gets you,” he advises.

Leo: Aw, come on, Tommy. You know I don’t like to think.

Tom: Yeah. [puts on hat] Well, think about whether you should start.

Tom studies people. He sees a complex web of independent actors, each motivated by their own self-interest. They may appear as friends one day and enemies the next—but they didn’t change, the circumstances did. The people continued to act consistently with their beliefs, values, and goals.

As Tom discovers the intrinsic motivations of the other characters, he uses that insight to orchestrate an elaborate chain of events to address the threat from Leo’s rival. (Can you tell I’m trying really hard not to spoil the film for you?! Go watch it—it’s a Coen-brothers masterpiece!)

Tom is the mobster version of a CX Leader, trying to get other people to do what he wants by convincing them it’s what they want. His stakes are a little higher than ours—instead of losing his funding or his job, his literal, actual life is on the line.

And while his process is unorthodox—lots of drinking, betraying, lying, threatening, womanizing, and fiddling with his hat—the principles are the same. Tom’s doing some dark version of Stakeholder Analysis—a critical skill most CX leaders ignore.

But ignore it to your own peril! CX is a team sport. If you want to produce business results, then you must work through other people.

And that means doing things for a reason. Not because they feel good, or to please people, or to fit in, or to stay small, or to avoid rocking the boat, or because you read something on the internet. But because your action will positively influence a stakeholder to improve the customer experience.

How do you know what to do? Before you can make a plan, you have to understand the person.

How to do Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholder Analysis is the formal process of identifying and evaluating all the people who can impact your success, then making an action plan to win and maintain their support.

Stakeholders can be:

  • executives who need to support the initiative
  • leaders who have the power to approve or deny access to money, people, and time
  • key contributors, participants, or implementors of the project
  • other individuals with influence over the perception and acceptance of the project results
  • people impacted by the initiative

As you think about each stakeholder, consider what you know about them on several dimensions:

  1. Engagement Stage: Which of the 5 stages of CX engagement— ignorance, skepticism, buy-in, commitment, and action—do they inhabit? Understand where the stakeholder is on this spectrum.
  2. Sentiment: How do they feel about the CX program or initiative? Are they a true believer, all-in for CX? Are they neutral, sitting on the fence and waiting to see how it plays out? Or do they oppose CX, either vocally or silently. Are they trying to block or derail your success?
  3. Extrinsic Motivation: What does the stakeholder say publicly about their goals and priorities? What are they working towards? How is their own success being measured? Extrinsic motivations may align with the company’s goals for the current business cycle. Pay attention to their incentives, because incentives drive behavior.
  4. Intrinsic Motivation: What are the internal, private motivators for the stakeholder? Getting a promotion? Traveling on the company’s expense account? Recognition? Prestige? Retaining their people during budget cuts? Laying low and escaping notice? List what you suspect or have heard from the stakeholder and others.
  5. Values: What does the stakeholder value? What core beliefs are informing their behavior? If a stakeholder values stability, they may be risk-averse. Another stakeholder may value risk-taking, and be willing to take calculated risks to achieve big rewards. Need help? Here’s a great list of values.
  6. Reasons for Resistance or Support: What are the specific reasons for the stakeholder’s posture towards your CX initiative? While the motivations you listed earlier may be general (“getting a promotion”), these reasons should be specific (“wasn’t consulted when the decision was made” or “pride-of-authorship over the broken process”).

Stakeholder analysis uses something psychologists call Theory of Mind.

Theory of Mind is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, emotions, and knowledge—to ourselves and others.

Source: Simple Psychology

We all have Theory of Mind. Humans begin developing the skills at about 15 months old. For most of us, it becomes a kind of intuition, something we understand on a subconscious level. And a lot of times, we get it wrong.

Formal Stakeholder Analysis engages your prefrontal cortex—the part of your brain responsible for logic and critical thinking—to develop a more complete understanding of others.

With this deeper insight, you can develop a plan to influence them to buy-in, commit, and take action on your CX initiative.

And then you can take Tom’s advice and do things for a reason.

Hey, CX Leader!

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