It’s a truism that people are resistant to change. We all have familiar habits and rituals that give us comfort and prepare us for the day.

When The Globe and Mail changed its investment platform, company representatives had to take time to understand customer needs but also realise some customers would be lost.
When The Globe and Mail changed its investment platform, company representatives had to take time to understand customer needs but also realise some customers would be lost.

For thousands of loyal Globe and Mail  subscribers, an important part of their daily routine is checking their portfolios and investments through our suite of popular online investing tools — tools that hadn’t been seriously upgraded since 2001.

Eighteen months ago, we began the process of assessing and updating the entire suite. And this was no simple change: We consolidated nine tools, re-platformed them, modernised the design, changed some to paid access, and added real-time data. Taken together, the tools allow users to track their portfolios and investments. Approximately 250,000 users would be impacted.

When we embarked on our overhaul of Globe Investor Tools, project lead Michael Shaye (senior product manager of financial products) prioritised communicating with our customers. He was instrumental in explaining the changes and new benefits to users through e-mails, ads, and even one-on-one phone calls. I spoke with him about the principles he applied and that we’ll continue to use going forward when implementing product changes.

Understand the customer: One of the first steps Mike undertook was a complete audit. What were the tools used for? What did the customers want? What did they fear about the change? “Some people were very nervous because they consider the tools as part of their brokerage account,” he said. “Although it’s really a simulation of their finances, that’s not how it’s seen.”

We took this feedback seriously and balanced our promotion of the new tool benefits with the beloved features we were maintaining. We’re also monitoring the usage of the new tools to see what we can further adjust or add to enhance the suite of tools.

Know the changes are necessary: “It’s easy enough to understand the changes, but harder to keep your certainty when so many customers are contacting you to question it,” Shaye said. He created a series of internal fact sheets and scripts to ensure all staff involved knew what we were changing and why, along with answers to the tough questions our customers are known for asking.

Be available: Along with our customer service team, Shaye made sure he was available in the room on the weekends after a new change to respond to customers, work them through the new interface, and thank them for their patronage. “When you give people a number, they’ll call,” he said. He made an effort to get back to all customers as soon as possible, helped gauge the urgency level to triage calls, and monitored the tech tickets.

Accept there may be losses: Our primary goal was not to lose customers, but we knew it was a strong possibility some would leave. “We reminded our internal teams that there would be rough moments, but we needed to focus on our larger goals of increasing the speed and power of the products as well as increasing cost efficiency,” Shaye said.

Use the power of the brand: The Globe and Mail has been a trusted part of our subscribers’ daily life, sometimes for decades. We reminded customers they can trust us to do the best we can for their experience with the tools.

Looking for proof these principles work? Our attrition rose by 2% in the first month, but most of this was from the 20% of customers who had not logged on in over a year. We’ve now levelled out to our usual attrition rate — with the additional benefit of a CDN$2 million annual savings from the project.