In simplest terms, customer empathy is the same as normal empathy, just from a company perspective: the ability to understand another person. If you feel empathy towards someone, you know how they’re feeling, and can see their point of view. You put on their shoes and you walked that mile. You “get” them.
Understandably, having empathy for your customers does everything to improve their overall experience with your business. When you take the time to see the world through their eyes and know what really matters to them, they feel “seen.” Defensive walls come down, they feel trust and a connection with your brand, and the entire experience becomes positive.
Boom. You’ve got yourself a new loyal customer.
How do you develop customer empathy?
Empathy can be a powerful piece of the CX puzzle, but you have to work for it. You want your customers to feel that you really understand them. So you actually have to really understand them. Crazy, right?
There are a few things you can do to get to know them:
- Research: If you want to know more about your customers, get your answers the good old-fashioned way — ask them. This could be in the form of a focus group or interview. Use open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no.
- Create personas: Think about who your customers are. You can start with the basics like age, gender, income, geographic location, etc. But in order to make this persona into someone you can actually empathize with, you need to go deeper. What motivates them? Who are they friends with? Where do they work? What do they do for fun? What problems do they have and what products do they love?
- Customer empathy map: To help you better understand your persona, take a piece of paper and divide it into six quadrants. Put a photo that represents your persona in the middle, then in each quadrant, answer one of the following questions: What does this person think and feel? What do they say? What are they hearing? What are they seeing? What are their pains? What are their potential gains?
Voila! You’ve created your target customer.
What’s more, you know them. Really well. Time to start feeling all the empathy.
Why is customer empathy important?
Now that you know all about how to empathize with your customers, we should talk about the why.
Increasing customer empathy ultimately increases your bottom line. According to Harvard Business Review, the 10 most empathetic companies in 2016 increased their financial value more than twice as much as the bottom 100 companies.
Higher empathy also leads to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty by making it easier to anticipate and meet customer needs, while also preventing possible problems.
What’s more, empathy begets empathy. It’s human nature to mimic the expressions of those around us, so if your customers feel your empathy towards them, they’ll give it right back. This will help you avoid conflicts since they’ll probably have a little more patience, understanding and flexibility when it comes to interacting with your business.
Scaling up the power of empathy
We can learn so much more about customers and how they value our business (and what true value of our business actually is) when we lead with empathy. A human conversation is much more effective than a long questionnaire because it is a powerful neurological tool that can shape perceptions, emotions and yes, purchase decisions, in real-time.
We all have it in us to show empathy as individuals, but things start to break down for organizations the bigger they are. Just hearing what customers are saying becomes a challenge. But the proof it’s worth the effort is out there; check out our free eBook: Companies Leading Through Empathy. We dive into how industry leaders in healthcare, hospitality, retail and more are powering their growth through empathy.
Carlie is a copywriter hailing from Chicago, IL. When she’s not writing, you can find her herding her two young children, watching reality TV, drinking wine, or leading family adventures through the city.