A tale of two pachydermsHow a big push and a little help can convince people to change

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Switch elephant

This is the story of how one elephant drove us to make a change... and another elephant, courtesy of Switch authors Chip and Dan Heath, showed us the way.

We've been meaning to leave domain registrar GoDaddy for a long time. The endless come-ons and up-sells, the relentless and depressing sexism of their marketing, and one or two appalling posts on CEO Bob Parsons' blog all combined to alienate us completely from the company over the years.

If it had been a question of switching grocery stores or vitamin brands, we'd have done it long ago. But registrars tend to make leaving kind of complex; they don't see it as being in their interest to have one big Transfer All of Your Domains Somewhere Else button. And since we own dozens of domains, the barrier to action was even greater. Switching domains was on our list of things to do... someday.

Enter the first elephant.

In March, Parsons uploaded a video himself shooting and killing an elephant in Zimbabwe, and there was an immediate outcry. Parsons' defence that the killing was an act of humanity, helping villagers protect their crops and providing a little badly-needed meat, was undermined by the video itself, which was flippant and self-promotional.

(The video has since been re-edited to replace the initial title labelling it a vacation video and to remove the shots of Parsons standing triumphantly over the elephant, and the AC/DC music that ran over the footage of villagers — wearing GoDaddy caps — stripping meat off the elephant's carcass, as well as closeups of the villagers and company logos.)

I watched the video on March 31, agog. But it wasn't until our operations manager, Morgan Brayton, wrote Alex and me a quick email to say that she was sickened by the incident - and wondered if this might be the moment to change - that we decided to act.

But just what action, exactly?

Cue the second elephant.

We were at a place where a lot of people and organizations often find themselves: ready to change, but not quite sure how. In particular, there are a lot of domain registrars out there. Who to go to?

Switch by Chip and Dan HeathThat brings us to Switch, and Chip and Dan Heath's elephant. Their book examines how organizations can bring about change. And they argue that the human brain is a lot like an elephant with a rider on it. The rational, calculating rider believes she or he is actually in charge... but it's the emotional elephant that ultimately decides where they're going.

If you want to change someone's behaviour, then, you need to direct the rider and motivate the elephant. But even that often isn't enough. There's a third step: shaping the path: removing obstacles, setting out step-by-step instructions, and making change as easy to embrace as possible.

In our case, we'd heard good things about Namecheap, and their rapid response to a Twitter query I'd posted was very promising. But our friend, sysadmin and development partner Mike Kelly of Soniccat suggested we look into Tucows-affiliated Hover.

And when I checked out Hover's site, I found an offer to handle the entire transfer process for all of our domains for a modest flat fee. We had been planning on hiring several hours of part-time help to execute the transfers, some of them a little tricky because of DNS settings. And here was Hover offering to take that all off our hands (with something they call concierge service).

When I called, Hover's Mike Walker not only gave me all the information I wanted, but added that they were currently waiving the $25 concierge fee, and that he could apply a 10% discount on the overall charge.

My elephant and rider not only had the path shaped for them: it was cleared, smoothed and then paved in comfy velour.

We were sold. That was Friday. And today, just a few hours ago, the last of the transfers wrapped up.

An irresistible combination: strong motivation and an easy path

The experience has been a valuable reminder of something (well, two things, if you count "whenever we have a question about anything network-related, ask Mike Kelly").

Hover won our business when all three elements of the Switch model fell into place. We had the rider's direction (Mike Kelly's recommendation), the elephant's motivation (the video and a backlog of dissatisfaction), and a clear, easy path to follow (Hover's concierge service, and Mike Walker's encouragement).

Even when motivation is strong, change may not happen... unless there's a clear next action to take, and the barriers to taking it are low. That's worth remembering, whether you're trying to convince people to participate in an online community, vote for a particular candidate, or switch domain registrars.


NotoriousWebmaster says

April 14, 2011 - 10:26am

I worked for Tucows for 4 yrs. I met many fine people with mad skillz, and was amazed at the awesome customer service the Hover folk laid down. I moved all my domains to Hover.

Then I left Tucows. And Ross Rader, Hover's GM, threatened to close my account and trash my domains. He gave me less than 7 days to get out of Dodge. You can read all about it here: http://www.notoriouswebmaster.com/2011/03/25/hover-hubris/.

I'm happy you found an easy path away from an unsavory situation, and I hope your time with Hover turns out better than mine.


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