Is Your Organization Empathetic to Customers?
Every successful call center knows that great customer experiences can garner customer loyalty, improve retention, and result in sustainable business growth. Now, “customer empathy” is also evolving as a competitive differentiator and success catalyst.
By offering genuine empathy in every customer interaction, you can deliver great customer experiences that lead to repeat sales, garner positive reviews, and drive long-term loyalty and brand advocacy.
What is Empathy and Why Does It Matter for Service Organizations?
Journalist John Koetsier describes customer empathy as “Walking the same path your customers are taking: living their pain, feeling their needs, and deeply understanding the solutions that will work.”
Empathy is about caring about customers’ feelings and experiences and making an effort to identify with their objectives, challenges, and aspirations. It’s not just about addressing their short-term requirements, but about putting yourself in their shoes to view things from their perspective. More importantly, empathy is about using this knowledge to anticipate their needs, guide your actions, solve their problems, and thus improve their experiences with your brand.
Customer empathy is especially crucial in the area of customer service (inbound or outbound). It can help forge stronger connections and build meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships. Moreover, it can generate greater growth, and set your company apart from competitors.
Today’s customers are impatient, demanding, and all too willing to switch brands. By not practicing customer empathy, you risk losing them to competitors. You may miss growth opportunities, and see poor net promoter scores. Furthermore, a lack of empathy could result in poor reviews and social bashing that affects your brand’s reputation and goodwill.
So is your organization empathetic to customers?
If not, what can you do to help your employees develop this ability?
Tips to Develop Customer Empathy in Your Organization
Customer-centric brands know that customer empathy has always been important. But now, empathy has become even more crucial in the post-COVID world. Customers expect businesses to provide products and services that address their feelings of fear, anxiety, frustration, and powerlessness. At least 59% of them want higher quality customer care than they did in pre-COVID times, while 95% say that customer service determines their loyalty to a company. Here’s where it helps to be a genuinely empathetic organization.
Try these 3 strategies:
- Simulate Customer Experiences
When a customer interacts with your organization, what challenges do they face, and how smooth is their experience? Unless you know this, you cannot develop customer empathy. That’s why putting yourself in their shoes is vital.
Have your employees – especially those who are customer-facing – simulate a typical customer’s purchase experience. They should run through the common tasks the customer goes through, and note every challenge or pain point. Then leverage this information to improve your processes, and enhance customer experiences.
- Give Customers a Voice
Your customers likely have an opinion about your organization, whether it’s positive or negative. Unfortunately, only 4% of dissatisfied customers actually say anything. This may be because they assume that their feedback or opinions will fall on deaf (i.e. non-empathetic) ears.
Build empathy in your processes by interacting with customers. Interview them, and ask for feedback via Voice of Customer surveys. Perform user research, host focus groups, and review ratings to understand their mindset. Ask customers to tell their story in their own voice, and formulate action plans to address negative (or indifferent) opinions. Look for qualitative insights, and practice active listening. And last but not least, use feedback sessions to develop empathy, not as opportunities for upselling or cross-selling.
- Bake Empathy Into the Organizational Culture
To be truly effective, empathy must be genuine and action-oriented. Unlike sympathy – which is passive – empathy involves an active attempt to understand customers’ problems and needs and takes the best possible action to address these needs. And this can only happen when empathy is part of the organization’s culture.
Train employees to understand customers better, even if customers cannot articulate exactly what they want (or need). Show them how to sense customers’ emotions – whether it’s happiness or frustration, pleasure or tension – and how to respond accordingly with words and actions. They should practice active listening, generate rapport with customers, and find ways to resonate with them. Review customer feedback, and use this information to improve empathy across the organization. And last but not least, set the right example by developing empathy towards your employees!
More than great products or services, today’s customers want to be heard, understood, and appreciated. When an organization makes an effort in these areas, customers feel an affinity and a sense of loyalty for the brand. This can result in higher sales, bigger profits, and a stronger competitive position. By developing empathy in your organization, all these goals are within your reach. So what are you doing to develop and practice customer empathy in your business?
- Customer empathy is a competitive differentiator and success catalyst.
- Great customer experience depends on genuine empathy in every interaction.
- Customer empathy helps to build a strong connection between your customer and the organization.
- Listening to customers, building rapport, and reviewing their feedback, helps to develop a strong bonding which results in brand loyalty.
- Empathy towards customers helps to get them to return again, and again.