VOICE OF EXPERTS
Alex Allwood: Why Customer Empathy is Important in Customer Experience Management
For 20 years now, organisations have worked at delivering customer experience (CX) excellence; appointing a senior CX leader and dedicated team, investing resources into measuring customer satisfaction, mobilising teams to operationalise improvements, reorganising teams to work in new ways and innovating customer touchpoints.
However, global performance reports show current customer experience management practices are failing organisations and their customers. The promised returns of enhanced value, differentiation and growth from investing in customer experience management are not being fully realised.
For example, Forrester’s Customer Experience Index showed again this year, that CX excellence remains elusive for the majority of businesses,
“81% of brand scores stagnated; most industry front-runners were repeats; many gains too minor to render them statistically significant.”
In my work as a customer experience management consultant, I have observed a fundamental CX practice gap—an empathy deficit. This empathy deficit is perpetuated through the perceived low value of empathy as a skill, a shortfall in empathetic leadership, a siloed mentality within organisations and an obsession with customer satisfaction scores, to name just a few.
Customer Empathy is understanding your customer’s point of view, feeling what they’re experiencing and considering this in your decisions. When we utilise Customer Empathy in our interactions, we engage with customers through empathetic listening; asking the right questions and keeping an open mind; setting aside our assumptions about their experiences to gain real insight into their needs to inform our problem solving and decision making.
Here are 3 reasons why Customer Empathy is important in customer experience management:
- Current practices are not solving common CX management challenges:
- low organisational commitment,
- poor alignment of cross-functional teams,
- and competing agendas and priorities.
In my experience, Customer Empathy is a powerful human resource that creates more meaningful customer connection, aligns and unites teams and enriches decision making to benefit customers, employees and the business.
- Customer Empathy thwarts our biases in problem-solving and decision making:One of the struggles of CX problem solving is objectivity. That is, we can’t help but process information through the lens of our own biases, frames of reference and the behavioural norms of our business’s culture, such as the assumptions we make of what will work and what won’t. The values, beliefs and expectations that we hold as individuals and teams, influence our creative thinking and decisions in the process of developing and providing customer experience solutions.Customer Empathy enables us to see our customers’ world differently, from our customers’ perspective. When we actively listen to their experiences, feel what it’s like to be a customer, understand their perspective and share their stories, we free our thinking from myopic business thinking, assumptions and judgements that get in the way of problem-solving and decision making.
- Customer Empathy delivers rich and meaningful insight:Another common problem I’m hearing is that CX executives and managers have too much customer data and not enough insights. Or maybe, the challenge is not having enough of the right type of customer data – but that’s another debate! When we look at something from a different perspective we learn something new that we did not, or could not, otherwise have known. This is how customer insights are discovered.It is Customer Empathy that delivers new possibilities. Perspective-taking gives us a new way of looking at the customer’s world and a new lens through which to see things differently—revealing new opportunities for future value and growth.
Customer Empathy is the most under-utilised and powerful human resource in business today. My book, Customer Empathy: A radical intervention in customer experience management and design, shows leaders and employees how to switch on and scale customer empathy to benefit customers, employees and the business.
Alex Allwood is a leading authority on Customer Experience; Customer Empathy: A radical intervention in customer experience management and design, is her second book. As founder and Principal Consultant of the customer experience management consultancy, All Work Together, Alex works with organisations to connect customer and culture; empowering leaders and employee teams to work together to enhance customer value and drive customer-centric growth. Alex also teaches people in business how to develop and strengthen customer empathy skills to improve their customer experience capabilities.