In our previous articles, we described the first four (of five) dimensions that form a customer’s experience: Touchpoints, Pathways, Delivery, and Ecosystem.
This week, we will explore the fifth and final dimension: “Empathy,” which is the heart of customer experience.
Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to the feelings of others, and is the most fundamental dimension of every successful organization’s customer experience strategy. After all, customer experience is fundamentally a human experience. Importantly, “Empathy” in our context does not only apply to your customers, but also to your employees.
Some of the most obvious examples of “Empathy” are:
-Using language familiar to your customers (not using acronyms or industry jargon);
-Being flexible with your customers schedules;
-Identifying high-stress situations and managing customer expectations and emotions connected to them;
-Mitigating the impact of high-stress situations with mental and physical support programs for employees.
Some less obvious examples of “Empathy” are:
-Involving stakeholders from all levels and all areas of your organization to participate in both strategic and tactical decisions;
-Anchoring your processes to a consistent strategy;
-Implementing technologies using processes that reduce stress not compound it;
-Prioritizing long term relationships over short term efficiencies;
-Not sacrificing the important for the urgent.
Customer experience cannot always deliver solutions, but it can always deliver Empathy. When your customers experience your organization, they want to be heard and feel like you and your employees truly understand them. Similarly, your organization must make your employees feel like they are heard and understood.
On the most basic level, companies deliver “Empathy” by thoughtfully shaping the customer experience around managing the emotions connected to each step of the journey for both customers and employees.
Both groups should be treated like individuals, rather than sources of revenue, on every step of the journey. Empathy must be at the core of every organization’s Customer Experience strategy. Delivering Empathy successfully shows customers that you care and will improve their overall impression of your company, even if they’ve recently had a negative experience.
Furthermore, Empathy makes good business sense because it is the ultimate customer retention strategy. When customers are valued and treated as much, they’re more likely to choose your business the next time around—even if they experience a negative interaction. Similarly, if your employees feel valued and connected to the organization they are less likely to leave and will produce more per capita than organizations with apathetic employees.
You can’t always solve a customer’s or employee’s problem, but you can always make them feel important. And, some parts of your organization’s relationship with your customer may always involve some inescapable levels of stress and negativity.
But, when you demonstrate that you care your customers will carry that positive feeling with them the next time they use your product or talk about you to their colleagues.
They will reward you with repeat business, positive word-of-mouth, and referrals - and your employees will reward you with loyalty, innovation, and productivity.
As best-selling author Daniel Pink notes, “Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.”
Sean Shepherd and James Grieve