Customer Empathy – Why You Should Humanize Your Business

Saying customers are important is stating the obvious. If you sell a product or service, if you do not have any customers you will not be in business for very long. But many companies fail to actually understand their customers and also the customers they want to attract. They may even be very successful companies, but they don’t have customer empathy.

You can see this repeated throughout history. There have been disastrous ad campaigns, companies who treat customers as an inconvenience and a litany of viral marketing mistakes. So why, in the age of the customer, does this keep happening?

It’s time to take a look at customer empathy and start putting the customer at the heart of everything.

Customer empathy in action - A happy customer in a store.
Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

What does customer empathy mean?

Customer empathy is when a company tries to build a better relationship with the customer by focusing on what the customer wants and needs. The process can also involve discovering needs that the customer may not realise that they have.

Having empathy means putting yourself in another person’s position to allow you to think and see things from a different point of view. On a personal level, empathy leads to better understanding. So it’s no surprise that in an era of increasing customer centricity, that commerce companies need to be more empathetic. Companies that make no effort to understand their customers will be left behind.

Another happy customer making a purchase.
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Why build with a focus on customer empathy?

Building with a focus on customer empathy is a very different business model than, for example, building with a product centric approach. Usually when building a product you build the best thing you can, iterate and improve with new features and then measure your revenue/sales metrics. Building with empathy is different. You look for new needs and problems you can solve, offer the best solution you can and then measure success through metrics like retention or customer LTV (Long Term Value). 

Lucky for us we now have more customer data than ever to work with. So you have tangible metrics to use to precisely gauge your level of customer empathy. 

Let’s look at how you can use data to build up your customer empathy.

Open laptop showing data to illustrate the data that's available to businesses who want to build customer empathy.
Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Develop a holistic view of your customers

Most companies do not realize exactly how much customer data they actually hold. This is usually because it’s spread among different departments (more on that next!) such as sales, marketing and customer service/support. If you have a website you also likely have a large amount of first party data and access to something like Google Analytics.

Combining and organizing all of these sources can help you develop a holistic view of who your customers are. You could even marry this data to something like Google trends, to see if how your customers act is inline with external factors at the query stage.

Actions You Can Take:

  • Combine your data sources
  • Look at external trends, are you catering to external factors?
  • Create a “data lake”

Pencil and paper with a question mark
Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown on Unsplash

Break down silos in your organization

Silos in your organization are destroying your ability to empathize with your customers.

The customer does not care which part of your company they are dealing with. They don’t see a difference between your website, your call center or a sales rep they are speaking to. They are likely to see your brand as a joined up entity. But the likelihood is that your customers are dealing with different parts of your business that may not even speak to each other very often.

That needs to change.

It’s a long term project but breaking a traditional organizational structure into small agile teams that interact with each other makes it much easier to build customer empathy. Smaller cross functional teams can put the customer at the heart of everything. You will also see an increase in communication between staff. Put simply, your sales team might speak to customer support more often.

This can also help to shift from an approach solely focused on revenue generation, to one that is focused on fulfilling customer needs and being empathetic. This will, counter intuitively in some ways, lead to increased revenue and better LTV metrics.

Actions You Can Take:

  • Look at your structure, is the customer at the heart of your processes?
  • Get your teams to talk to each other
  • Cross-functional teams build better commerce experiences

Open laptop and work going on.
Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Act on your data and develop a “customer empathy score”

Combining your data for better insights is all well and good, but you need to avoid paralysis by analysis. So make sure your processes are aligned so you can take action on the new customer insights that you have.

One way to do this is to develop a metric to measure your overall customer empathy. A score that you can use to ensure buy-in from everyone in the organization. You could use an average of external reviews combined with customer service satisfaction data. It’s possible that you could even divide this by cart abandonment rate on your website. Or you could simply combine retention and LTV metrics. 

You will know your driving KPIs, so consider you to tie that to your customers.

Actions You Can Take:

  • Invent your own customer empathy metric or use metrics like LTV/retention to measure success

Customer support staff talking to a customer.
Photo by Berkeley Communications on Unsplash

Talk to your customer facing teams & listen to customers

Part of building your customer empathy involves really talking to the people in your business who best know your customers.

They might be your sales reps and account managers, who will know the daily struggles your customers might have. Or your customer support team, who help to deal with unmet customer needs and problems on a daily basis.

It also goes without saying that you should listen to what your customers actually tell you. If they are consistently having the same problem, you need to solve it.

If a customer has had a negative experience, try to solve their problem and maybe even reach out to them when it’s fixed. This can help you improve your processes and also improve retention rates.

Actions You Can Take:

  • Take regular feedback from customer facing teams
  • Measure this feedback
  • Listen to customer feedback and reviews
  • Log this feedback, especially when it’s negative
  • Act on the negative and get back to customers who have had a bad experience

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Talk to MAQE

MAQE can help your business to be more customer focused. We can help build personalized customer experiences and collaborate with you to align your organization around the customer. Get in touch with us via [email protected].