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From 1982 to 1993, Norm Peterson entered his favorite watering hole and was greeted with a chorus of “Norm!” from the regulars and staff. Millions of people loved the show “Cheers” and could relate with the tagline “You want to go… where everybody knows your name.” I think we all feel that way; you want to go where you feel known, heard and understood.
Companies want to leverage the power of “Norm” to know their customers as they come through the door, enter their website or reach out to the contact center. They want to be able to predict what each customer wants and deliver an experience unlike their competitors. To do this, it all comes down to empathy.
Empathy means putting ourselves in the shoes of the other person. When thinking of empathy, many people feel that it’s fuzzy or simply about being “nice.” But it’s actually about providing the right experience — at the right time — to meet the needs of that person. It’s understanding that, sometimes, people just need to get a job done quickly.
Recently, I had an experience that could have benefitted from a little empathy. I visited the website of a company I work with regularly. I logged onto the site and was greeted with a “Welcome back, Charlie” message. That was a great “Norm!” moment. I then navigated the site, searching for the right product. Basically, I was having a conversation with the company — sharing my interest with them.
I found what I thought was the right product and put it into my shopping cart. I then navigated to the cart to check out but paused there. I had a question. Thinking back to Norm, it was like he was sitting on the stool, staring at an empty glass of beer. Would the staff just let him sit there? And for how long?
The company didn’t engage me, so I was forced to search for the answer myself. I entered my question into the search bar and was presented with a NO RESULTS page. Now, as Norm, I was declaring, “I’d like a beer!” But the staff was ignoring me. I spotted a “Chat with Us” button and thought my resolution was right around the corner. I clicked the button and was presented with a form to fill out: name, email address and question. This is like Norm tapping the bartender on the shoulder and being asked, “Who are you?” and “What do you want?”
That could probably go down as the worst episode of “Cheers” — ever. Norm would probably hang is head and slowly walk out of the bar, possibly never to return. That’s not the experience the award-winning writers would have created. And it’s not the experience you want for your customers.
The Pillars of Empathy
To inject empathy into customer and employee experiences, at scale, begin by simplifying empathy.
Think about the conversations you have with your family and friends — and how you make those empathetic experiences. There are some key things you do to make that happen successfully. There are empathy pillars, if you will.
First, you listen. Take in as much information as you can. Then, use your brain and experience to turn that information into understanding and a prediction of the right way to respond. Take action and provide your response. And then, gauge the success of your response — and hopefully learn from it and improve for next time.
You can apply these pillars to customer and employee experiences in the same way. We listen at scale through data across the enterprise: gathering facts about who this person is, where they’ve been, what’s been happening to them and their sentiment. You can use the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to transform this data into an understanding of intent and need — and then predict the right way to help.
You can act through engagement, surfacing the right content, the right automated tools or the right human resources to guide each interaction to a successful outcome. And you can return to AI to evaluate the actions and outcomes to continually improve experiences and results.
Companies often lack the connective tissue that unites disparate data sources, engagement channels and resources. The silos that exist across a company’s technology and business units can make it seem impossible to create this type of experience.
But there’s a way to inject the power of Norm into your customer experience. There’s a way to orchestrate the components of data, AI and engagement channels to deliver empathy at scale. This would create an experience in which resources — automated and human — not only know your customer’s name but also have the relevant events and context to engage at the right moment and offer the right level of guidance, assistance and content.
Predictive engagement reduces customer and employee efforts and operational costs — and it increases customer satisfaction. When Sam Malone predicted that Norm needed a beer, it was because he understood Norm’s preferences and history. In return, Norm rewarded the bar with his loyalty.
A recent Harvard Business Review study shows that companies that are loyalty leaders grow revenue 2.5X, compared to their peers. Empathy isn’t a fluffy, fuzzy concept; it’s a solid business strategy that drives KPIs.
Empathy isn’t just warm and fuzzy, or a nice-to-have part of an experience. Empathy should be at the heart of your business strategy and experience design. Creating empathy in action throughout your customer and employee experiences provides the differentiation companies need to thrive. Who doesn’t want to be where everybody knows their name?
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