Empathy in Business
Content Marketing, Customer Experience, Service Design

This is the Driver of Future Competitive Advantage

A receptionist at the Mahindra Holidays resort in Coorg received a call from a member who was stuck in traffic on way to the resort. The member was worried that he would not be able to check-in before the resort’s restaurant ended its lunch service. He did not want his children to go hungry. So he requested that some food be kept aside for the family. 

As the receptionist related this message to the restaurant, a colleague asked, ‘Hey. Did you check with them about the route theta were taking?’

When the receptionist told him which route it was, his colleague jokingly said, pack some tea and cake with the lunch, they will take a long time to reach.’

The worried receptionist muttered ‘there are kids in the car.’ Half an hour later, when his shift was over, without telling anyone, the receptionist loaded four lunch boxes on his motorcycle.

Revising his bike through small lanes for about 12 km, he kept calling the member’s mobile phone until he finally reached the car. He handed over the packets and said, ’Your children must be hungry.’ (Source: Stories at Work by Indranil Chakraborty)

Do you think your company has a culture like this? If the answer is No, you are losing the competitive advantage you might be enjoying.

Customer Experience is in vogue. Finally, customers have found the place at the core of companies’ thinking and action. This is the route to all business success data every company is aspiring to achieve.

Actually, when entrepreneurs decide to serve customers a business is started. Without this thinking, no business can survive. Therefore, if any business is in business now, that is only because of their customers. This is the reason why a product or service is in the market in the first place.

Whether its B2C or B2B or Social Enterprises or Professional services everyone is out to serve their target audience. Social Enterprises are inherently empathetic because their agenda is to solve a social problem which impacts people’s lives.

All commercial enterprises are profit-oriented but profit is a factor of serving customers satisfactorily. The issue is serving customers profitably has become very competitive.

This is largely because of;

  • Fast Changing Technology
  • Huge investments supporting start-up culture enables more competition
  • More suppliers so demand is price elastic
  • Free and Cheap to capture market share is a new norm
  • Talent is scarce
  • The power of social media with Customers which punishes ruthlessly bad customer experience

The Problem:

A business enterprise designs a product or service for the target audience. But their target audience focus ends there.

Sales, marketing tactics, customer service lack customer focus.

Fantastic insurance product but if it is mis-sold by the sale person or makes an unbelievable claim in marketing messages, and customer struggles to find the online option and get pathetic post-sales support, this fantastic product will fail.

This Fantastic-ness has to start with product design and survive all throughout the buyers’ journey.

Attention | Consideration | Decision | Post Sales. These are the 4 stages. Each stage has its own journeys.

I dislike aggressive and manipulative tactics of one of the leading timeshare holiday resort companies of India. They are known for their fantastic properties. If you read customer reviews you will find people are happy about the properties but are very unhappy with their sales tactics and confusing types of memberships.

Do they know how much sales they are missing or how much sales can become easier had they shown their fantastic property mindset to fantastic sales strategy?

Wherever in the journey customers or target audience face difficulty, uncomforted or lack of trust, the company has failed in showing Empathy towards the people they wish to serve.

Why people struggle to deal with the companies?

There are several areas where customers usually suffer.

  • Long queues at the service providers outlet are it bank branch or retail stores
  • Call Center long waiting time on the phone
  • Call Center asking to punch several buttons
  • Call Center listening to music how the call is important but no importance to the time
  • Call Center not solving the issue
  • An email which customer can’t reply
  • An email which says will revert in 2 days. Why 2 days and not 2 hours?
  • A website that is confusing with too much content and self-promotion. No UX but self-interest in mind.
  • Long forms for data collections
  • Not knowing what customers want and focussed only on the company’s agenda
  • Misleading Salesperson
  • Misleading Advertising
  • Unethical Market Tactics
  • Unreliable customer support
  • Hidden cost
  • Wrong commitment
  • Delays

The list is still longer.

These are pain points. Pain points are to be cured, reduced, and if nothing can be done at least companies need to empathize with the customers whenever they encounter these pains.

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The Solution:

Oprah-Empathy

Empathy, defined by entrepreneur Joey Pomerenke as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions; and the ability to share someone else’s feelings.”

“Empathy should be embedded into the entire organization,” writes Belinda Parmar in the Harvard Business Review. “There is nothing soft about it. It is a hard skill that should be required from the board-room to the shop floor.”

The story you read at the beginning about the Mahindra Holidays is about Empathy.

“Empathy is a fairly objective, perspective-taking process where you are aware of your own bias, you try to step as far out of that as you can, and you try to see and understand from someone else’s point of view. When leaders inside organizations do that — and that doesn’t mean just the C-suite — they are able to connect better with their teams, connect better with their customers or their clients, and ultimately deliver more well-rounded solutions.” Michael Ventura, Author Applied Empathy.

Yes, Empathy is critical. All the issues mentioned above where customers suffer while dealing with the company are the result of unempathetic mindset.

Customer Experience champion Cleveland Clinics has Created a REDE model to ensure their physicians and advanced clinical care providers have the relationship-centered communication skills proven to increase empathy and reduce physician burnout.

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Empathy In Action:

James Allworth says empathy was the most important thing he learned at Harvard Business School and warns that companies who can’t use this skill to understand their customers and competitors will be disrupted out of business.

Some of the important activities’ leading companies are doing where they started to keep Empathy at the core are;

  • Service Design Human Centered is a new way to design services. At the core is Empathy.
  • Customer Experience – Overall Customer Experience. This is a competitive advantage but it will fail if it lacks empathy and efforts are only cosmetic.
  • Journey Mapping – The purpose of Customer Journey Maps is to create an effortless experience at every stage.
  • Content Marketing – Helping the target audience and not only customers. Catch them in the early stage of buyers’ journey and help them not just sell them.
  • Communication – Empathy is key. Cleveland Clinics has a book Communication, the Cleveland Clinic Way. It is about relationship-centered patient experience. The core of the book is Empathy. What is good for healthcare is equally good for every other industry and business.

Handpicked related post: Know how early movers are killing Content Marketing

This video is not only about Cleveland Clinics. It’s applicable to every business.

Like patients and their relatives in the video, everyone dealing with your company are human and has some of the other problems to solve while dealing with your company.

Be empathetic with them while you design your services, marketing communication, train your call center executives, and your frontline staff.

They will be empathic with the customers and the target audience when they get empathy from the leaders in your company. Empathy is contagious.

“We needed to build deeper empathy for our customers and their unarticulated and unmet needs. It was time to hit refresh.” Satya Nadella, Hit Refresh.

Yes, Empathy is not only good for the current business but it can trigger the possibility of a new business opportunity.

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What Next:

  • Re-Design all services with Human centrality.
  • Create Content to help the target audience.
  • Communicate with care and human touch.
  • Add human touch in every touch points.
  • Be sensitive to employees, customers, and business ecosystem.

Restructure your business with a new powerful ingredient: Not Intel but Empathy Inside. The world wants to see your Empathy video the one like Cleveland clinics above. Are you ready?

Share your Empathy experience with the brands and businesses you deal with.

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