Is it possible to put empathy into action? In short, the answer is, “Yes.”
I recently got a copy of Dr. Natalie Petouhoff’s book, Empathy In Action: How to Deliver Great Customer Experiences at Scale, which she co-wrote with Tony Bates, chairman and CEO of Genesys. The book is described as “a bold new look at how technology can become a force multiplier to deliver more empathy and integrate deeper, more personalized human connections into everyday business interactions at scale.” You probably never thought you’d put technology and empathy in the same sentence like that, but Natalie and Tony did and came up with a great book on how to make that all happen – and it truly works.
As I read the book, I had a couple of thoughts: (1) Natalie and I are “sisters from another mister,” for sure. We think about this topic in the same way. (2) And this book is a great complement to both of my books, Built to Win and Customer Understanding, and vice versa.
OK, let’s dive in and start with empathy. What is it?
I appreciate how Tony describes it:
Empathy is a conscious act. It’s a commitment you make to understand a person in the context of their own life and experiences and then to treat them accordingly. After an empathetic interaction, the recipient feels heard, understood, and respected. But it’s been missing in the business world.
And I couldn’t agree more with that last statement: it is missing in the business world, for employees and for customers.
Let me call out a concept that is really central to the book and had me nodding my head as I read about it: Empathy Pillars™. There are four pillars:
- Understand + Predict
Keep in mind that these pillars apply to both customers and employees. Quite frankly, in order to operationalize empathy, they have to, they really must. (It shouldn’t be a surprise why these pillars resonate with me. Understanding really is at the foundation of empathy.)
The pillars form the foundation of a framework that allows you to put empathy into action. Listen wherever the customer wants to leave feedback or wherever the customer is talking to you. As I always say, be sure to capture those breadcrumbs of data that customers leave behind as they interact and transact with the brand, too. Understand what the customer’s needs, pain points, and problems to solve are, as well as their current sentiment, and then predict and prescribe what’s next for the customer based on what you’ve learned. Act on what you hear. Act on what you predict and prescribe. Orchestrate the experience. Personalize the experience. Ensure customers achieve their outcomes. And then learn from your actions, your interactions, and the outcomes in order to continuously improve.
You know the experience and the work to design and deliver it is a journey. It must be a continuous improvement process because customers evolve; expectations evolve; products evolve; and the business evolves. And so must the work that you do to deliver a better experience. If you’re acting on old data, on old insights, how can you deliver empathy. Empathy is all about listening today and acting on what you hear. And, “Empathy in Action becomes tangible when a company can consistently see the world through customers’ eyes.”
Here’s where the “at scale” part of the book title comes into play, and I’ll pull it straight from the book:
Using the power of AI to enrich the data and orchestrate the experience, the company gains a nuanced and unique understanding of customer sentiment, intent, and context and is better able to predict the best way to help them. With that predictive information in hand, companies are empowered to act through omnichannel engagements, surfacing the right content and resources (automated, self-service, AI chat, voicebots, or the right employee) for a successful customer-based outcome.
… Using the power of AI and ML, hundreds of millions, if not billions, of interactions are continuously evaluated, enabling the company to look for failure patterns and then iterate, pivot, and learn in real time and improve all customers’ experiences and outcomes.
It truly is about seeing the needs and the interactions through the customer’s eyes and delivering an experience that is personalized to the individual, with the help of technology. The technology is not the experience; it’s a tool that facilitates, supports, and helps to deliver the experience.
It can help employees deliver the experience, too, so don’t forget about employees in this and the importance of employees to the customer experience. They drive and deliver the customer experience, so keep in mind that the technology must assist employees, as well. Make sure they’re involved in the selection of the technology (e.g., ask them what problems they need help solving) and trained properly on how it will help them and how it will be used.
I’ve barely scratched the surface with regards to all of the good stuff in this book! Be sure to grab your copy to dig into the details. It’s available at a bunch of different outlets, and proceeds are benefiting four different charities! Can’t go wrong with that.
Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another. ~ Alfred Adler
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2021, she wrote the manuscript for her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is now available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.
Image courtesy of the authors.