Establish real customer empathy

It's the Customer, Stupid

Read time: 5 minutes

Rationality is what makes us human.

But not all problems can be solved by thinking through the options rationally.

There’s an equally important but less spoken-of element of us humans…emotion.

And it's only by understanding human emotions that we can establish real empathy.

Customer empathy is the ultimate growth hack because empathy provides total clarity.

Clarity on what is most important. Clarity on how to prioritise. Clarity on what are the right decisions to take.

Are you sick of guessing about what will drive growth?

In today's newsletter, explain how to develop your CX superpower: customer empathy.

Let's dive in.

The Challenge: I don't know how someone else is feeling

Emotions are a key factor in a customer's decision-making process.

Customers think with their hearts, not their heads.

Businesses think with their heads, not their hearts.

Neither is more correct than the other. However, customers are the ones keeping businesses alive and will rarely change how they approach their decision-making when it comes to buying products and services. Businesses, therefore, need to be the ones to adapt.

Sad, but true.

After endless google searches on how to empathise with customers you decide to use the golden rule of life; "treat people the way you want to be treated."

You might have attempted to think of what would annoy you if you were a customer and use those insights to guide your CX strategy. You keep trying, but there you see no sustainable improvement.

The last point is arguably the greatest measure of success because it reflects the health of the relationship. The longer a customer stays with your brand, the healthier your relationship. The opposite can be said when customers churn all too quickly.

Your challenge is made worse because to extend the life of a customer relationship, you need to have worked out how to empathise and your attempts at empathising aren't seeing the success you hoped for.

You are stuck.

The Solution: “It’s the Customer, Stupid”

You see, the problem starts with how you might be attempting to empathise. Sure this golden rule is the foundation of kindness and respect, but it is useless when it comes to improving CX.

Johnathan Hawkins (CEO of Anthrolytics) explained the golden rule of CX:

"Don't treat customers how you want to be treated;
treat them how they want to be treated."

To understand the customer's emotional needs, businesses need to put themselves in the customer's shoes and understand their perspective. This is what empathy is. And it is only through empathy that businesses will be able to understand customers' desired outcomes.

We worked with an early childhood centre recently. Product-wise, they could not be flawed. The education offered was outstanding. But they wanted to know how to differentiate their experiences and truly understand what is important to their customers.

The teachers nailed the teaching side, but they didn't quite understand the worries and concerns of the parents/carers.

So, how does Proto help its clients empathise with their customers?

You see empathising is not the challenging part. The hardest part is collecting insights into how the customer thinks, acts and behaves. Once you gather this customer research you will be able to step into their shoes and anticipate their problems. Below is a guide to gathering insights:

The Execution: Four Insights

Insight 1: Customer's Situation

What is the customer's problem or opportunity? What circumstances led them to this problem or opportunity? How urgently do they need a solution?

Let's break this down for the case of the early childhood centre.

The customer's problem is that they do not know exactly how their child was cared for during the day so they are relying on feedback from the employees and the state of their child at the end of the day. Given the naturally protective nature of parents and carers, they will likely withdraw their child from care if they think that their child is not being looked after adequately. Therefore, requiring urgent resolution.

Insight 2: Customer's Emotional Needs

What are the customer's feelings and needs in this situation?

Let's face it, parents are incredibly good worriers (and arguably a little nuts sometimes, I should know with three boys!). Their intentions are pure. They want everything to be perfect for their children, especially when they are not physically present. If the standard of care is not equivalent to that which they provide, the parents will not be satisfied. This means they obsess over the small things, magnifying them into diabolical problems. We refer to this as the Ladder Effect.

For example, let's say Sarah comes to pick up little Josh from childcare and Josh is not wearing a hat. Their thought process goes a little like this:

"Why is Josh not wearing a hat?"

"Has Josh not worn a hat all day?"

"They probably didn't apply sunscreen either.”

“If they forgot the hat and sunscreen, Josh probably hasn't been fed.”

“They must not be looking after my child." 😵
Let's look for a new childcare centre; they obviously don't care.

Insight 3: Customer's Desired Outcome

What does the customer want to achieve?

Unlike a product which may be reviewed every month or year, parents of early childhood centres are evaluating their performance daily. This is an extraordinarily high bar! What they failed to appreciate was how important those daily touchpoints were. At the end of the day, the employees had the opportunity to ease the nervous nellies. The customer needs to be reassured that their child is being looked after. It's as simple as that!

Insight 4: Customer's journey to get there

How will the customer go about achieving their desired outcome? What steps do they need to take?

Let's say that Sarah comes to pick up Josh and he does not have his shoe on. We expressed to the Centre the importance of understanding how a parent would perceive the situation and the internal checklists they would go through.

The employee needs to reassure Sarah that Josh only took off his shoes off 5 minutes ago and has been playing safely for the rest of the day.

The second part ("playing safely") is important to add because when a customer - the parent - asks a question, that is not always the question they actually want answered. There is almost always a question behind the question.

By empathising with the customers, the organisation was able to tap into this higher-order thinking and anticipate the carer's concerns. This switch from being reactive to proactive meant that:

Your customer experience is only ever as good as the quality of your insights.

Hope that helps. See you next week.

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