Customer Experience: An Empathic Approach
By Elie Khamisse
The biggest trap that companies fall into is disregarding the value of emotions in building a customer experience that increases their brand advocacy and loyalty. They develop tunnel vision, focusing on profits and traditional statistics to analyze customer experience, neglecting that brand loyalty is multi-faceted and human-centric. The disconnect is so vast between companies and customers that while research shows that 80% of companies consider their CX exceptional, their customers beg to differ, with only 8% of their customers concurring.
How do we utilize the power of Emotions in Customer Experience?
1- CX and the Emotional Factor:
When we get older, years start going much faster than when we were kids. For children, every experience is new, so our brain stores every encounter. However, as we get older, the novelty wears off, and our brain starts ignoring most of our daily experiences, only paying attention to novelty situations. It is no wonder you remember your vacation last summer, but you cannot recall what you wore the day before!
This is where organizations fall short when it comes to customer experience. They overlook that for your customers to remember you, you need to tug at their emotions.
Raising the Bar – Breaking the script: Consider a bank customer who has misplaced his debit card. The experience with most banks is tedious, where replacing it is a lengthy process that involves taking time off his schedule, signing papers, and then waiting for a new card. Some banks raised the bar today and have the new card mailed. The customer overcomes all the frustrations from losing the card and feels grateful and satisfied with his bank service. This is what raising the bar is all about. By surpassing your customers’ expectations, you create a memorable experience, lowering the stakes and turning them into your business promoters.
Creating Surprise: A young woman has just paid a house on loan. She notices that a percentage of this payment has not been withdrawn. When she calls the bank to inquire, they surprise her by saying they deducted this amount from her first installment as a housewarming gift. This surprising gesture has just turned this customer into a lifelong ambassador for the bank. It also improved CX more than any high-cost advertising campaign could have ever done.
Managing Expectations: Patients in a hospital ward, with a long wait at the reception, felt unappreciated after their visit. Unfortunately, the department could not make the wait shorter due to short staffing and the nature of the consultations. The waiting room is the first chance to positively impact patients by delivering the patient experience they expect. Despite this, patients often feel unsatisfied. A 2020 patient survey found that nearly 60 percent of patients feel frustrated after 20 minutes of waiting.
One of our clients equipped the waiting room with a notice that said, “The wait is 35 minutes. Please help us solve our Patients’ Crossword Puzzle in the meantime. We appreciate your help!” The experience was a resounding success. The patients expected a wait of 35 minutes, but the wait was 25 minutes, which exceeded their expectations. In addition, they loved that they were involved in a fun game while waiting. Simply speaking, they have managed expectations.
2- Customer Experience is Employees Experience:
Empathy is one of the biggest drivers of Customer Experience, and it starts with the employees – the company’s first customers. Therefore, many customer-centric organizations have Employee Experience (EX) as their defining culture.
Create a Cohesive Company Culture: Create a culture where employees can communicate easily among the different departments. This produces a sense of purpose for employees and encourages them to work together to realize the company’s aims.
Picture an employee who feels excluded from the company’s culture. He handles a customer-facing role at a point of sale (POS). As a front liner, he shows no interest or engagement when dealing with customers. These customers end up feeling unhappy and unappreciated. They have probably turned into detractors, discouraging others from dealing with this company.
Employees Wellness: You cannot have healthy and engaged employees if you do not invest in their wellness. Employee well-being is more than having a free snack machine in the lobby. It is having a clear mental health and wellness strategy in the workplace.
Consider this: A hotel receptionist suffered from work-related stress issues, but the higher-ups ignored his well-being. On one occasion, an employee kept calling and complaining about their room. Because this employee was dealing with an unaddressed mental health problem, he lost his temper and yelled at the customer. Unfortunately for the employee and the hotel, the customer recorded the conversation and shared it on social media. The hotel ended up with a PR disaster and a bad CX reputation.
3- Social Listening and Addressing Customers’ Needs:
Some companies watch their competitors, and others listen to their customers. The latter are the companies that win big when it comes to CX.
To grow trust and loyalty, companies should strive to make their customers feel they are present in their lives when they reach a milestone, hit a pitfall, or even during times of collective tragedy or happiness.
Take an example of a company that understood the power of social media trends. It asked people to find other uses for their product and post it under a unique hashtag. The hashtag blew off with people trying to use it unorthodoxly, with results ranging from hilarious to innovative. The company increased its annual profit exponentially and turned thousands of customers into brand ambassadors.
Another company donated money to a natural relief trust when a flood hit. It proved to its customers a social responsibility side and an empathic one that tore down the image of a company that only cares about making a profit regardless of the customers’ situation.
4- Segmenting Customers and Customers Personas:
Companies that acknowledge that their customers are different understand CX. Companies that ignore their customers’ different demographics, interests, and behaviors usually have poor CX.
A cell phone company was rolling offers to their customers regardless of age, education, interests, or social behavior. A retired man was getting a social media offer, while a teenage girl was getting an offer for free call minutes. The company was spending resources in vain, and on top of that their CX was subpar.
We worked with the company on segmenting their audience and creating personas to tailor their offers accordingly and create a unique CX for every customer segment. The company’s profits rose while its brand’s reputation and loyalty tremendously improved.
Customer experience increases brand advocacy. The better customers feel towards your company, employees, and services, the more likely they will recommend it. Not only is it free marketing, but 40% of leads are generated through word of mouth.
CX also increases customer retention. Customers who feel their needs are met are more likely to return. They are also less likely to switch to a new company if a problem arises.
Building brand advocacy and affinity means a company should proactively address its customers’ needs and expectations. It should stop looking at customers as numbers and embrace the human side of CX.
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