There’s a lot that goes into running a successful business, and coming up with products or services people not only need but want to buy is only part of the equation.
It’s also about keeping people happy and meeting their expectations, especially once you’ve successfully converted them into paying customers.
Overall, you want to treat both existing and potential customers to a terrific experience from start to finish.
That process starts before someone buys and continues until long after they’ve completed a purchase.
But in order to do things properly, you need a solid understanding of customer empathy.
Here’s a closer look at what it is, why it matters, and how you can incorporate it into your ongoing business strategy.
What is Customer Empathy?
To empathize with someone is to have a deep, thorough understanding of their wants, needs, emotions, and motivations.
In the context of Empathetic Marketing, customer empathy is all about developing and cultivating this same depth of understanding when it comes to your clientele.
It’s about learning to see them as more than just customers. It’s about seeing them as people and meeting them where they live.
- Who is your average customer as a person? What about your ideal customer?
- What matters most to your customers, and why?
- What specific pain points and frustrations might your customer be dealing with, and how can your product help?
- What desires, needs, wants, or problems might inspire someone to go looking for a product like the one your company offers in the first place?
Once you know where your customer is coming from and where they’re looking to go next, you can better understand where and how your products fit into their everyday lives.
The better you become at doing that, the higher your customer satisfaction rates will rise and the healthier your bottom line will ultimately become.
Why is Customer Empathy So Important?
Easy access to great products and services they can trust with their quality of life isn’t enough for today’s consumers.
People are looking for more than that — a personal reason to choose your brand over someone else’s.
Customer empathy can help you provide that by bringing you closer to the good folks who buy from you. Here’s a closer look at how.
You’ll understand your customers’ motivations better
Figuring out what your customers want and need most from you will always involve a little bit of trial and error.
But customer empathy gives you the best possible chance at getting things right sooner rather than later.
A genuine understanding of your customer’s thoughts and feelings makes it easier to predict expectations.
You’ll know better what people really want and what they expect the experience of using your product to be like.
Companies that get that right tend to have far more hits than misses regarding product development.
As a result, they become quicker and more efficient at delivering products people want while making their bottom line more robust.
Yes, you should still react to suggestions and requests you receive from your customers, but successfully anticipating their needs in the first place will make them happier sooner.
You’ll know better how your business impacts your customers’ lives
Anticipating a customer’s needs is part of what it means to successfully empathize with them.
The rest is about understanding the full role your products and services play in that customer’s overall quality of life.
Customer empathy puts you in the other person’s shoes and helps you truly get just how thoroughly people are counting on you to come through for them.
You know how well your product can enhance a customer’s life when all goes well, but what about when it doesn’t?
How does it affect them if they wind up dealing with a flawed product, slow shipping, or subpar response times should they need assistance with anything?
Recognizing a customer’s humanity and connecting with their feelings makes you a better business owner.
It also gives your role in the client-business relationship a lot more meaning than it would probably have otherwise, which is a good thing for everyone involved.
It helps you establish and maintain solid connections with your customers
There’s a lot that goes into running a successful business, so it’s all too easy to lose sight of who you’re doing it for.
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you went into the industry that you did to help people, make their lives better, and fill a gap in a unique way that truly solves people’s problems.
Customer empathy helps you keep your primary focus where it belongs — on the customer.
Strong customer connections go both ways.
Yes, they give modern consumers something they want and expect from your business. But they help you recognize the value of consumer input, as well.
Empathy makes it easier to keep an open mind by adding weight and importance to customer feedback.
It boosts customer loyalty by making them feel heard
If you’re like most people, you already know all too well what it’s like to have a bad customer experience.
Everyone’s been left on hold indefinitely when calling a customer service line for help, treated rudely by a service provider, or otherwise been made to feel like they just don’t count.
And no one wants to buy from a business that treats them that way and clearly doesn’t care about their thoughts or feelings.
Prioritizing empathy for your customers helps eliminate the possibility that your business will ever make them feel this way.
A customer who feels heard is a happy customer who comes back to buy from you again and recommends your products to other people in their life.
Customer empathy makes it easier to successfully rectify a negative customer experience, as well.
How to Successfully Build Customer Empathy and Benefit from It
Of course, it’s one thing to understand the benefits of customer empathy and to know you want to make it a more significant part of your ongoing business strategy.
However, getting the logistics right is another matter entirely. Like anything worth having, an excellent working understanding of your customers takes time, patience, and effort.
Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.
1. Watch, listen and learn
One of the better ways to get into your customers’ heads is to observe them in action.
- Is there someplace you can go (online or offline) to watch your customers interact with your products in real-time?
- How do they behave, and what do they appear to be feeling?
- Is there somewhere they go or something they do either right before or right after using your products?
Spend some time directly interacting with your customers one-on-one, as well.
Engage with them on social media.
Answer any questions they might have, and ask a few of your own. Inquire directly about what their lives are like, what their pain points might be, and how your company can do a better job of meeting their needs.
Not only will you receive valuable information you can use to improve your customer care strategy, but your customers will deeply appreciate the fact that you took an interest in them.
2. Spend time in your customer service department
Your customer service staff are experts in what makes your average customer tick.
They’ve heard it all when it comes to what your clients love about your business, as well as what they complain about.
They can enlighten you as to the most commonly asked questions and concerns.
So spend some time with your customer support team. Ask them about the customers they communicate with every day. Listen in on a few support calls, or perhaps even handle a few personally to get a sense of how things typically go.
There’s nothing like personally interacting with a customer to better empathize with them and get a sense of how their needs could be better met.
3. Make their problems your problems
When a good friend or close loved one approaches you for help with a problem, how do you react?
Not only do you genuinely care about what they’re going through, but if they’re looking for a solution, you probably take partial ownership of their issue.
You make it your mission to ease the person’s pain by helping them solve the problem.
And you can do this just as well with your existing and potential customers as you can anyone else.
Remember, these people are the heartbeat of your company, so their happiness correlates directly to the health of your bottom line.
Let your customers know where you stand by using phases of understanding when interacting with them and directing other team members to do the same. Examples include:
- “I’m so sorry to hear this happened.”
- “I understand how frustrating that can be.”
- “Let me make this right for you.”
4. Pay close attention to customer data
While it’s true that there are no genuine substitutes for real-time customer interactions and observations, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the numbers.
Together, analytics data and one-to-one communication can uncover important trends in how your customers relate to your products.
For example, your Google Analytics info can tell you a lot about how your customers actually find your site and navigate their way through it once they’re there.
Examine how it correlates to the navigation paths you’ve predicted and deliberately set up for them.
You could learn a lot about why customers have some of the frustrations they do, why some features underperform, and so on.
5. Create and study multiple personas based on your customers
Every business owner, marketing professional, and product developer has some idea of the type of person each product is really for.
They know what that person’s needs and frustrations are, and they’re probably right on at least a basic level.
However, it’s essential to know where that idea ends and your actual human customer begins.
Each customer has a rich, full life outside of where they connect with your product.
Each has a job title, a lifestyle preference, and a deeply cherished set of personal values to consider. Each person’s needs and preferences may grow and mature over time, as well.
Develop a variety of personas that take all these nuances into consideration.
Then, refer to each of them when brainstorming new products and developing ways to make your existing products even more popular and efficient than they already are.
6. Spend time using your own products and services
Another great way to plant yourself firmly in your customer’s shoes and walk a mile in them is to personally test the items your company sells.
You already know what it is, how it should work, and what you expect it to do for your customer.
Putting it to the test yourself is one of the easiest, most effective ways to identify product flaws and potential improvements.
You’ll also boost your capacity for customer empathy considerably.
If you have trouble with something or find a particular feature frustrating, just imagine how your customers must feel when they run into the same issues.
7. Establish and maintain sky-high standards
Picture the last time you gave a new product or service a try, and it drastically exceeded your expectations.
The experience probably felt life-changing and left you wondering where on earth this incredible solution had been your whole life.
Aim for that reaction with every single one of your customers, and it’s hard to go wrong.
Keep in mind that the world is full of products that are good, adequate, or satisfactory. It’s the ones that really wow people that become runaway successes and yield loyal, satisfied, delighted customers.
Wrap Up: Customer Empathy Is the Key to World-Class Customer Service
Stellar customer service isn’t just important when it comes to the success of your business. It’s everything.
But while outstanding customer experiences can work wonders for a person’s loyalty and willingness to do business again, it only takes one awful experience to undo all your hard work.
Mastering the fine art of customer empathy is the key to keeping people happy across the board.
Ready to learn more about how to better empathize with your customers and improve your bottom line?
Check out our expert tips on how to identify and rectify weak points in your business model that could lead to bad customer service.