3 ways to develop more empathy for customers

As customer experience programs rise in importance on enterprise agendas, C-level leaders can use these empathy-based strategies to get closer to customer needs
296 readers like this.

As 2020 progresses, customer experience has quickly climbed to the top of the list of business priorities, regardless of your organization's industry.

According to the recent IDC survey “The CxO View of the Future Enterprise in the Digital Economy,” as discussed during a recent webinar, customer experience programs have increased in priority from number six up to number two among C-Suite executives. For context, customer experience beat out data programs, software development capabilities, and workplace transformation on enterprise agendas. 

This underscores that if your organization is not changing your customer experience right now, you may be hindering your potential growth in the future.

Empathy is the key to unlocking how to improve customer experience in your organization. In IDC's recent COVID-19 Impact on IT Spending Survey, 72 percent of C-level executives said that creating empathy with customers at scale is significantly more important than other initiatives.

But an empathy-based approach is not simply a straightforward show of camaraderie. Truly showing empathy takes multiple forms, all of which can culminate in stronger success stories.

[ Want more data on customer experience trends? Read the paper: Innovative customer experiences require agile operations. ]

Let's explore a few ways C-level executives can create empathy for customers.

Start with your team

Start with your own organization and teams to create a positive feedback loop. One way to go about this is to create a cross-functional team to work across independent business units. This team might consist of individuals who are leaders in their groups, vocal about change, spread positivity, and are ambitious to see progress, which can inspire more teams to emulate their behaviors.

The goal of these teams should be to identify the customer’s journey and work toward shared organizational metrics. As their leader, your role is to remove barriers to innovation within cross-functional teams. For example, if teams have conflicting KPIs and don’t work in unison, this can create bad morale and affect customer experiences down the line. Bring teams together and find ways to synchronize KPIs, which can go a long way toward creating higher satisfaction both internally and externally.

Break down metaphorical walls between teams 

Increase a shared understanding of goals by ensuring that teams understand their impact on the organization. Allow teams to experiment and streamline processes, both of which can enable your business to be more reactive to the market and environmental changes.

The creativity that flows from this increased experimentation can inspire positive change, both internally and for customers. Show that you care for your internal teams and listen to their needs, and they’ll show an appreciation for your efforts and the goals of the business. 

Get closer to your customer 

Listening to needs, creating personalized experiences, and having teams prioritize the customer experience makes the customer feel like more than just another number. Leading organizations are creating value and showing empathy in a number of ways: streamlining or simplifying the customer experience, reacting to market and environmental changes in near real-time, and predicting customer needs ahead of time. Many organizations have even sympathized with financially struggling customers during uncertain times, and continue to provide their services even when payments are not possible. These actions can result in a significant climb in brand loyalty.

Many organizations have already realized the value of competing on experiences rather than competing in price, as customer expectations continue to rise steadily. Providing good experiences, services, and products can create significant brand loyalty. We all have our preferences for the things we consume. The clothes we wear, our choice of vehicles, our favorite eating establishments, all created as a result of good experiences subtly creating loyalty. This loyalty solidifies the positive feedback loop both internally and externally.

These are just a few ways that organizations can improve their customer engagement and experience by adapting to an ever-changing landscape. Empathy, personalization, awareness, adaptation, and adoption of new techniques can result in far higher customer satisfaction and ultimately could keep your business moving forward during even the most uncertain of times. 

[ Get answers to key digital transformation questions and lessons from top CIOs: Download our digital transformation cheat sheet. ]

Meg Foley is a Senior Principal Marketing Leader for Application Services Solutions at Red Hat. In this role, she is responsible for defining, researching, and advising customers on the fast-evolving Digital Transformation and Customer Experience technologies and multi-product solutions.