An Ounce of Empathy = Several Pounds of Business!
Customer Experience, when boiled down to its essence, flows from the thoughtfulness and care taken by the vendor in serving you, the Customer. This thoughtfulness is often demonstrated through the human element in live interactions as well as in the care given to the buying experience itself. Small, local stores may often rely on direct familiarity with its customers, while larger stores rely on superior store ambience, merchandising mix, efficient check-out/return processes as well as personable (even if changeable) store personnel.
One area that large businesses often struggle with where local businesses frequently shine is in their inability to directly listen to their customers and effect changes in response to their feedback. Large businesses often have several layers of management/people between the personnel that are in touch with the customer, and those that have the power to make a change. Of course, most of the senior leadership in successful large businesses are speaking with customers all the time – and yet, that is nowhere close to the level of feedback the business is actually gathering from the rather large number of customers they serve. Great businesses also hold several feedback sessions with their customer facing personnel (sales, support, service)- which is useful and informative – and yet, large gaps remain.
The arrival of Social platforms began to change the tide on this front, and programs such as “Social Listening” made an active attempt at listening to customers at scale. This “Listening” contributed its knowledge to information gained from more traditional forms of feedback gathering such as Surveys and formal Customer Interviews. The challenge of effecting rapid change based on deep trends in the feedback however remains. And while businesses are trying to figure this out, the Customer is left holding the proverbial bag – facing unanswered questions and a seemingly unresponsive business.
The ideal path forward is to behave similar to a really good sales or support person – solve the immediate customer problem, overcoming any customer issues with all resources available, and flag the issue for deeper analysis. But can this approach be scaled? Can this ever be done without a 1:1 engagement with a person? Can this be done on a digital platform in an automated fashion?
It can indeed, but it requires the development of a deep understanding of a customer’s journey and their place along that journey, with the proper context. Once available, it allows the business to address the customer’s needs more thoroughly (and in an automated fashion), and even if the customer is dissatisfied with some aspect of the engagement, the overall experience will be so tuned to the customer that it will create a net positive experience. At the same time, automated online surveys could gather real-time feedback on aspects of the experience the customer is dissatisfied with. The results can be run through some quick analysis, and a simple cost-benefit analysis could be undertaken periodically to remedy the sources of dissatisfaction in a prioritized fashion. Once the process is established, most of the sources of friction in a customer’s experience on their purchase journey will slowly but surely be removed – and the inertia of inaction that sometimes bedevil customer experience spaces can be addressed.
Addressing sources of dissatisfaction is a deep acknowledgement of the presence of the Customer, and guiding them to their desired goal, an act of empathy that will reward the business many times over.