Customer Experience IV – Customer Empathy before Customer Journey…

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Do to others as you would have them do to you – Luke 6:31

This age-old lesson in empathy, not a symbol for any religious preference, is a perfect example for how long the human race has understood this basic tenet of social wisdom.

The other day I walked into a mid-range boutique shop selling formal office-wear for men. Run by a family, an elderly gentleman who obviously was a tailor in his younger days and his son, who improving on his fathers’s trade had gone on to learn fashion design. Within minutes of me being in their shop, they were draping me in fabric that felt good to touch, looked fabulous and was everything that I wanted. Before long, I spent twice the amount that I had meant to. Walking out of the shop, I realized I had the most awesome customer experience because my service provider knew exactly what I wanted, although it was the very first time I had walked in there.

How do some businesses do it? How do they know what the customer wants? How do they empathize so well with their customers?

Over study of several papers in the field and compilation of consumer journeys, customer maps, etc. over the last few years, I have realized three important tenets of such successful “Customer Empathy” – knowing what your customer wants.

Communication communication
First and foremost, communication with empathy is the most important characteristic that all customer facing employees of an organization should be familiar with. It should neither be like the fake “May I help you?” with plastic smiles, that many airlines have now trained their cabin crew for, nor like the intimidating “May I help you?” of security guards when you are trying to enter a new building for the first time. It should not be impersonal and not with a “do not care” attitude that you see in most restaurants, hotels and shopping malls. Instead a very genuine concern for someone that you are trying to serve. Your staff are paid to be nice to the customers and to bring more business from your customers and if their communication and attitude is not helping the business in the right direction then they should be trained.

Memory Memory
This is the second part of an empathetic engagement. Do you know what is the single largest irritant that your consumers face dealing with your business? Having to repeat themselves again and again. Worst is when the consumer has to repeat the same story all over again for the exact same staff that attended to his or her problem the first time around. Which is why your staff should be required to pay special attention to all their conversations with consumers. And the staff should be equipped with technology to help accentuate their memory with computer memory, systems that will help recall old transactions, past interactions, preferences, etc. of your business with the consumers regardless of whether those transactions happened with your companies IVR system or your CEO.

Emotion Emotion
This is really the icing on the cake. If your staff get their communication right and remember all the past interactions with your customers, the final step is how do they feel while serving your customers. Are they genuinely concerned about helping the customer or is the customer just an annoyance between lunch and tea break that needs to be tolerated?

Whether you like it or not, people can sense what other people are feeling. It is called ESP (Extra Sensory Perception) or 6th Sense or whatever else you want to call. But it is the mechanism which helps us connect and bond with other people. It is exactly how we are able to distinguish between an automated email response and a human email response. Do not underestimate the power of emotion? It is what makes us all human. Invest time and effort in training and unleashing the emotional quotient and emotional intelligence of your front-line employees. It will have huge upside dividends.

In conclusion, I would not worry too much about customer journey mapping and getting the science behind customer service correct. Because there are enough technology and consulting companies around the world working at it to figure it out. And after a while, the science just becomes a common denominator for doing business. But what would really give you the edge over your own competition is not the technology and the systems but the human touch. Because emotional connect, unlike technology, would not be easy for your competition to replicate. Remember the iconic Singapore Girl!!

Abhishek Singh
Currently, Abhishek holds the responsibility for conceptualizing, implementing and managing the IT product strategies for Infosys subsidiary, EdgeVerve, in the Digital space. Prior to this, several years at Singapore Airlines as well as his years of entrepreneurship ingrained in him the importance of customer experience.

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