The longstanding mentality was that “soft” habits like empathy were a detriment to the cutthroat business landscape. It was thought to cloud your ability to make firm, rational business decisions. But now, the attitude towards empathy is changing – it can actually be a major asset, even a necessity – in any business strategy.
Empathy, as defined by Merriam Webster is:
The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.
When you look at that definition, it’s pretty easy to see how this can give you a leg up with your customers. It stands to reason that we have a better chance of selling to people when we understanding what they want, feel, and need. There are countless studies and statistics that link increased empathy to better leadership and overall more successful businesses. At this point, failure to “consciously cultivate empathy” in your business is a decision to accept menial business results.
Need some convincing? Here are the risks that you’re taking if you’re not making empathy a priority in your business processes:
- Stifling Innovation
- Inability to adapt to rapidly changing markets
- An unhumanized brand – which leads to decreased loyalty and revenue
You’re stifling empathy – driven innovation
I’ll show you what’s possible when your processes are powered by empathy.
When Microsoft set out to compete with Sony’s Playstation, it was a daunting task. Playstation was already wildly successful at getting a wide range of gamers to use their console. But Xbox was able to cut into the market by addressing a more niche set of customers. This was actually driven by the mindset of their own developers: serious gamers who wanted the ability for some crazy graphics. These Xbox developers knew there was a market for this, because they were that market. They refused to cut corners on anything that would compromise this vision. What they ended up with was a powerful gaming device that serious gamers inevitably latched onto.
This innovation wouldn’t have been possible if they focused on what the market wanted versus what their specific desired customers wanted.
As you can see, the biggest benefit of leading an empathetic, customer-centric business is that you’re able to tap into your customers’ wants and needs to come up with innovative solutions. In the longterm, piggybacking off of what works for other businesses holds you back from carving out your own unique space. And it’s in that space that you find sustainable profitability.
Companies that are genuinely in tune with their customers are able to easily come up with innovative ways to address customer needs. This innovation could either be making a process easier or more enjoyable, or addressing a need that was currently unaddressed.
You’re making it near-impossible to adapt to constantly shifting markets
COVID brought on one of the biggest market shifts that any industry has seen in years. Airbnb is perhaps the biggest rockstar when it came to adapting to this sudden shift in expectations. They did so great, in fact, that they raised $1 billion during a global freakin’ pandemic. They did this by listening to what their guests needed (increased flexibility when it comes to cancelling), as well as what their hosts needed ($250 million worth of relief from all of their lost revenue from those cancellations). Airbnb was able to provide some stability for all of their customers, showing them that they’re right here with them during a hard time.
Even during non-COVID times, as technology gets more advanced, customers’ expectations are going to shift faster and faster. All of your spreadsheets and projections can’t predict the unpredictable. The only way to do this is through a close connection to your customers.
Customer decisions aren’t just a one-and-done thing. This loops back around every time a customer is faced with that same decision: the decision to buy from you or not. There are so many factors that feed into this Customer Decision Loop, and some of them aren’t even in your control. But that doesn’t mean you’re not still responsible for keeping tabs on them if you want to last.
By things out of your control, I mean technological innovations, social justice trends, and emerging competitors on the horizon. Your customers may be loyal. But once something new pops up that gives them something they didn’t even know they needed, their loyalty will expire.
If you create this empathic connection where you’re constantly putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and seeing things from their point of view – including considering all of their available alternatives – you stand a chance of pivoting to get in front of those emerging competitors.
You’re not humanizing your brand – ultimately sacrificing loyalty and revenue
D2C brands like Glossier, Dollar Shave Club, and Warby Parker are fan favorites because they do an amazing job of tailoring everything they do to represent their customers. While any company can provide a great product, it takes consistent and humanized branding to secure longterm loyalty.
These D2C brands know their customers deeply. They do everything they can to present their brand as something that their customers can relate to. They do this by digging into what they care about – not just when it comes to their products, but also what values, hobbies, and opinions their customers have. This is why millennials go crazy for them.
It’s human nature to crave connection. Customers love when they feel truly seen by the companies they buy from. When companies employ highly empathetic strategies, they humanize their brand.
Here at Worthix, we’ve identified a few key components that drive any customer’s decision. One of these drivers is brand identification. Brand identification is what makes your customers feel connected with your company and your values. And you can’t connect with a brand that doesn’t seem very human.
When you practice empathetic values, this shows in everything you do. From your marketing campaigns, to your sales reach-out, even your products themselves. All of this feels very custom-made to represent your customers. You build your efforts on similar values, about their specific problems and desires. Basically, the goal here is to channel this empathy into creating a strong overall brand persona that looks a lot like your customers.
When you do this right, customer loyalty skyrockets. And since studies show that repeat customers are much more valuable and profitable than newly acquired customers, your revenue skyrockets as well. Why would you leave this money on the table by not employing empathy?
So what does empathy in business look like?
You understand the dangers of leaving empathy out of your business strategy, but you may find yourself a little nervous about where to go now. When in doubt, learn from the pros.
Check out our new eBook, Companies Leading Through Empathy. In this eBook, you’ll discover what some of the most successful businesses are doing to cultivate more empathy in their business practices. Empathy may look different in different industries, which is why we’ve included examples from companies across all industries. We show you what they’re doing, how they do it, and the benefits it brings them.
In each section, we give you concrete and actionable recommendations to become more empathetic. Armed with these recommendations, you can be on your way to reaping the rewards of empathy.
Hannah Michelle Lambert is the Digital Marketer at Worthix, as well as the host of the monthly CX News Recap segment. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.