Here is the leading indicator that your organisational culture is customer-centric, or moving rapidly towards customer centricity; your CEO is leaning into customer empathy.
More than ‘talking the good CX talk’, these CEO’s are demonstrating the right behaviours; setting an example for their leadership teams and their workforce. They are demonstrating empathy in action.
So that we’re all on the same page – customer empathy is understanding your customers’ point of view, feeling their experiences and using their perspective in how you respond.
What makes customer empathy powerful is that it enables us to apply our ‘customers’ perspective’ in our thinking, problem solving and decision making.
In my customer experience consulting, customer empathy is the conduit connecting human to human, understanding customers and their experiences through a different lens and helping individuals to customer perspective take in their critical thinking and problem solving.
Take for example, my client who is the CEO of a business-to-customer company; a market leader in an industry where the company has the largest market share. I don’t think he’ll mind me mentioning that he considerers that empathy isn’t high on his list of strengths.
That being said, he’s strengthening his core empathy skills every day. As he has done many times, he visits our CX working space to read and listen to what his customers are saying about their experiences; their context, their needs and what they’re thinking, feeling and doing in their journey.
He sits in on in-depth, one-on-one customer interviews. Asks questions in the debriefing to understand ‘why’. He’s putting forward the customer perspective in discussions in the business’s CX Governance and Working Groups. He deeply understands his customers. This is customer empathy in action.
Empathy skills such as active listening, being curious about customer lives and bringing the customer perspective into day-to-day discussions are the three core skills of customer empathy.
For folks who feel that empathy is not in their DNA, empathy is inherently human. Empathy is just like any other muscle. For example, when you go to the gym and exercise your muscles they get stronger. Empathy is the same; the more you practice customer empathy the stronger it gets.
Another client CEO is the leader of a top-tier international firm and customer empathy is how the business is embedding customer-centricity.
They started by nailing the customer empathy basics; switching on deep one-to-one customer listening to understand their customers’ perspectives and scaling their customer stories across the organisation.
Then they moved to understand and map employee experience against their customer’s journeys. Insights informed the design of systems to support teams in delivering their vision and values.
They have created ‘space’ within their culture to facilitate an ongoing discussion on what customer empathy means and how empathy nests with their organisational values and culture.
They are building in connectiveness and understanding by facilitating ongoing customer conversations for their back-of-house and cross-functional teams.
Importantly, they are providing empathy training for their workforce and revisiting their goals and KPI’s to ensure that empathy is embedded as behaviour and becomes a cultural norm.
These CEO’s are demonstrating noble actions, the kind of behaviours that they want to see in all of their people. This is customer empathy in action.