While many companies operate under the model of “If we build it, they will come,” the most successful companies know it’s essential to understand and actively engage with a targeted customer base. At InMoment, we believe that no one owns the customer, but instead that everyone owns the experience. Both the customers and the company equally share in the brand experience, and both carry equal importance in decision making. To develop strong customer relationships, brands must fully understand how and why their customers choose to interact with their company. In other words, they must learn to empathize.
To begin, let’s explore what empathy actually is. Empathy is frequently confused with sympathy, when in reality, they can have greatly different outcomes when applied.
Both sympathy and empathy involve relating to and having concern for the feelings of other individuals. Sounds good, right? In most circumstances, either sympathy or empathy are appropriate responses. However, when developing a relationship with customers and clients, empathy always wins.
Sympathy is feeling compassion for another person. Sympathizing requires little emotional investment or intellectual effort and can often be misconstrued as pity. Empathy, in contrast, is the act of projecting one’s self into another person’s thoughts, feelings, personality, and circumstance to gain greater understanding—walking a mile in their shoes.
The Benefits of Empathy So what does empathy have to do with your customer relationships? People want to build loyalty and relationships with brands. By knowing your ideal customer and understanding how to attract them—in other words, empathizing with their experience—you open the door to developing a great relationship.
With this relationship comes success. When you understand your target customer, you can fine-tune your brand experience to better meet their specific needs and wants. In turn, companies experience the following benefits:
Actively listening and engaging with your customers’ perspectives—whether through one-on-one interviews, in-person observations, or through InMoment’s customer experience software—provides the highest ROI on your market research.
Creating an Empathy Map
What does this look like in practice? How do you actually get to know your customer? Copyblogger recently produced a comprehensive guide to understanding your customers’ worldview. Inspired by the user experience world, Copyblogger outlined the process of creating empathy maps for your ideal customers. These maps address four key areas in which customers interact with brands: thinking, seeing, feeling, and doing.
Copyblogger suggests gathering several key players to map out your brand experience, including stakeholders, customer support leads, vendors, product developers, and marketers. In this exercise, you’ll sit down together to discuss both experience and specific questions (What do our customers say or feel when they use your product? What are customers hearing from other people who use the product?), along with more personal, worldview questions (How do our customers think about their hopes and fears? How do our customers interact with family and loved ones?).
Some of these questions may seem fairly abstract in comparison to typical market research practices. This is what makes the approach such a success. By striving to understand your customers’ thoughts and feelings beyond the confines of your brand experience, you better understand your customer as a person, not just a source of revenue.
Dr. Frank Luntz describes the necessity of this abstraction in his book Words that Work. “The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself right into your listener’s shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart.” This “imaginative leap” will lead you to uncover the answers to questions that can truly revolutionize your business.
A Few Questions from the Imaginative Leap:
InMoment’s software is the perfect complement to these empathy exercises. We develop all of our products to capture the voices, feelings, and stories of your customers and understand them in our Experience Hub.
Take the data we provide to the next level by engaging in this empathy map exercise. To get you started, we’ve provided a printable PDF with the kinds of questions you may want to ask about your company and product. Let us know about your experience with this exercise. We want to hear about your successes and insights.
Click here to download the empathy map exercise.