Originally published on Forbes
It’s clear now that there is no “getting back to normal” after Covid-19. What was normal six months ago already feels like a distant memory. We have changed our lives in fundamental ways, and many of our new habits and preferences will be permanent.
As you chart a new course forward for your company, lead with empathy to create lasting emotional connections with your customers. Empathy has always been a cornerstone of customer experience, but now it is taking on even greater significance.
Let curiosity and compassion guide your decisions. Do you know what your customers want, need and value right now? What are their biggest concerns and challenges? What type of support, convenience or distraction will make their lives easier? Focus on building meaningful relationships with your customers, and cultivate their loyalty for the long term.
The Changing Customer Experience
Customer experience is evolving and taking on new meaning, according to findings from a McKinsey survey conducted in March. While brands usually focus on making customer journeys easy and engaging, customers are now more preoccupied with essential needs, such as safety, security and basic convenience. When you acknowledge your customers’ concerns and look for solutions to their pain points, you demonstrate that your company is willing and able to show up for them in tangible ways.
Brands that prioritize customer experience will also gain an edge among competitors. According to research from digital experience platform Episerver, a majority of B2B leaders surveyed in March reported that they were struggling to meet customers’ needs and expectations, even before the pandemic: 71% said they have a customer-centricity gap, and 54% said their customer relationships are strained, developing or non-existent.
Leaders reported that the top two digital experience tactics that needed the most improvement were: understanding who their customers are and personalizing the digital experience for each individual customer. Companies that have been able to close the customer-centricity gap, on the other hand, use empathy to enhance digital experiences for their customers. They are successful through four key actions:
• Centering their business processes around their customers
• Investing in digital experiences
• Designing products and services to meet customers’ immediate needs
• Establishing an ongoing feedback loop
These findings support the philosophy that drives our agency’s work – that the interconnection between brands and customers, which we call Share of Life™, is personal, meaningful and always evolving. The more you close the gap between you and your customers, aiming for zero degrees of separation, the more indispensable your brand becomes in their day-to-day lives.
How To Treat Customers With Empathy
Your customers are facing unforeseen challenges in their work and personal lives. They aren’t interested in corporate platitudes or self-serving ad campaigns. They want to buy from brands that show their humanity and have their best interests at heart. This crisis is revealing brands’ true colors, and consumers are paying attention. Here are a few ways to be a more empathetic brand.
Focus on customers’ current needs.
You can’t provide solutions until you understand the problems people are facing. Gather information about what your customers are going through right now. How have their circumstances changed? Where are they struggling? What are their most pressing needs? Remember that different groups of people will have different concerns. Look for insights that can help you tailor experiences to individuals.
Personalize your messaging.
Your customers’ inboxes are flooded with emails from companies that don’t have much to say. People are tired of trite, impersonal messages. Stand out by showing them that you actually know them and care about them. What customer data can you draw from? What does it tell you about their behaviors, tendencies, likes or dislikes? Leverage this information to personalize your communications so customers feel seen and understood.
Build connection in a digital space.
Human interaction has moved online at a breakneck pace. The pandemic accelerated a trend toward digital experiences that was already in progress, and it will only grow stronger with time. Find new ways to meet your customers where they already spend their time. How can you do more with them online? What new products or services would make their days more convenient or less stressful? Aim to create connection and belonging.
Empathy is the most important part of your customer experience strategy. Put your customers’ needs first, and your company’s success will follow.
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