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This is the Age of the Customer. Instead of focusing solely on products and features, you need to focus on your customers' wants and needs. Building customer empathy into your business practices will create a competitive advantage – and help you grow your business into the future. 

Key takeaways

  • Customer empathy focuses on feeling, thinking, seeing and doing things like the customer 

  • Customer empathy is essential in building products and experiences that meet your customers' needs

  • To build customer empathy, your business needs to shift from product-centric to customer-centric thinking

  • You can use all the customer data you currently collect to create actionable insights and build a better end-to-end customer experience

What is customer empathy?

Customer empathy is the act of building a closer relationship with your customers by focusing on what they want and need. Empathy is accomplished by putting yourself into another person's thoughts and feelings so that you feel, think, see and ultimately do things like the other person does. 

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Why is customer empathy important?

Being empathetic with your customers helps you build a business model that moves beyond focusing on products and profits to help you genuinely serve the needs of your customers. It's a matter of changing your business model from being product-centric to being customer-centric by putting yourself in your customer's shoes. This is essential if you want to attract and retain more customers and grow your business over the long term.

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Customer empathy helps you design products that better serve your customers' needs. It also helps you create more appealing experiences for your customers, which is essential in today's business environment. According to RightNow's Annual Customer Experience Impact Report, 86% of customers will pay more for a better customer experience – and 89% said they'd stop doing business with a company that offered a poor customer experience. 

Empathizing with your customers helps you see them as real individuals with unique wants and needs, not just numbers in a marketing report or income statement. Experiencing customer empathy helps you break out of inside thinking to come up with solutions that truly matter to the people who spend money with your company. 

Without customer empathy, you're likely to create generic products that look good on paper but don't perform well in the real world. A lack of customer empathy also contributes to lackluster marketing campaigns that fail to touch potential customers. Only by empathizing with customers can you create unique experiences that truly engage your customers. 

This video discusses the importance of customer empathy in business.

How can you use data for building customer empathy?

Building customer empathy requires a change in mindset for many businesses. You have to think not just about your internal numbers and operations but, more importantly, about what your customers are thinking and doing. Fortunately, you can use all the customer data you're currently collecting to help you better empathize with those customers.

When you want to humanize your metrics to build customer empathy, follow these six best practices:

Complete the digital transformation

To employ a data-driven approach to customer empathy, your company must fully complete your digital transformation. According to Forrester, only 21% of companies surveyed have fully completed the digital transformation process. If your company is behind the digital transformation curve, now is the time to complete the process.

Combine multiple data sources into a holistic view of your customers

It's likely that you have multiple sources of customer data across your entire organization. Some data might reside in your sales department, some in marketing, and even more in customer service. You need to connect all of these data points to gain a complete view of the customer. This is typically accomplished by investing in a robust customer resource management (CRM) system that creates a seamless source of customer information. 

Translate data into actionable insights

The data you collect is valuable only if you can act on it. It's key that you develop your internal processes to provide actionable insights into customer behavior. You want to be able to learn from your customer interactions and put those insights into practice so you can strengthen customer loyalty. 

Create a company-wide focus on customer experience

The insights you develop from customer data can lead to a strong connection with your customers only if your company develops a top-to-bottom focus on the customer experience. Management needs to shift focus from product development and revenue generation to understanding and meeting customer needs. Staff at all levels need to recognize the importance of providing a first-class customer experience – and all that goes into understanding that. Building customer empathy needs to be job one, with the understanding that doing so will lead to growth and profits in the long term. 

Build an end-to-end customer experience

With a newfound focus on customer empathy, your company can proceed to build an end-to-end customer experience that is second to none. The customer experience has to start before the sale and continue long afterwards. It cannot be siloed in any one department –the customer experience must extend across product development, marketing, sales, customer service and even operations. Everything you do must be in service to the customer, based on the data you continue to collect and the insights you gain from it. 

Listen to your customers

Finally, building customer empathy into your processes must include listening to your customers. It’s not good enough just to collect customer data – you must also develop processes that enable and encourage direct communication with the people who buy your company's products and services. 

You need to collect feedback at every customer touchpoint and truly listen to what customers have to say. Developing customer empathy is easy when your customers have a real voice in your company. 

Let Optimizely help you build customer empathy into your business processes

When you want to move from a product-centric model to a customer-centric model, turn to Optimizely. Our Digital Experience Platform helps you build customer empathy and create unique user experiences. 

Our personalization services build on real-time user data to create actionable insights that help you develop personalized content, campaigns, products and website layouts. Let Optimizely help you make customer empathy the cornerstone of your business growth. 

Contact Optimizely today to learn more about building customer empathy.