Customer Insight

You’re Only as Good as the Quality of the Insight

Alex Allwood ALEX ALLWOOD, Customer Empathy, Customer Experience, CX Management, CX Strategy, EMPATHY

There’s been lots of discussion on Forrester’s prediction ‘that 25% of customer experience (CX) professionals will lose their jobs in 2020’.

One CX commentator has blamed an inability to align business goals and ROI with the CX program. Another has questioned the business value of customer-centric transformation. In my view, what hasn’t been addressed is the lack of quality customer insight in problem solving and decision making.

As a CX leader you’re most likely drawing from both customer satisfaction metrics and operational data in your decision making, but something is missing that’s impeding organisations from delivering  customer experience excellence and utilising CX as a driver of sustainable growth.

In my work as a customer experience management consultant I have observed a CX practice gap—a customer empathy deficit. This gap is negatively impacting the quality of customer insights for problem solving and decision making.

Customer empathy is understanding your customer’s point of view, feeling what they’re experiencing and considering this in your decision making. The problem is, there’s not much customer perspective-taking going on in CX management and design practice today.

Evidence of this is the approach to the fundamental CX practice of understanding the customer journey. Many businesses mistakenly map their customer journeys from the business’s perspective using assumptive journey mapping.

Mapping assumptively neglects essential customer data such as a first-hand customer perspective; their behaviours, their thoughts, their language, and critically, how they feel about what they’re experiencing.

Mapping without the customer perspective incorrectly assumes there is only a functional relationship with the product or service delivery; that the customer’s experience has little or no associated emotion.

In reality, the customer journey is far more complex than a series of brand touchpoint interactions and includes, for example, many pre and post purchase interactions that impact the experience. The customer context provides the whole story.

To lend weight to the value of customer perspective-taking, let’s examine Patti Moore’s contextual research into the elderly in society. Moore is an internationally recognised industrial designer, gerontologist, professor and leading authority on consumer lifespan behaviours.

Moore’s ‘elder empathy’ approach; which saw her disguise herself as an eighty-year-old woman, helped her to intimately understand how difficult the world was for older people to negotiate. Empathy helped her to understand a different point of view—it was her ability to empathise that enabled her to better understand and feel her elder character’s experiences.

Moore used her learnings to make sense of the elderly person’s world and bring meaning to what was important; understanding them as people, as individuals; discovering their unmet needs and points of view. Moore’s experiential empathy research helped her to see a different point of view.

When we look at something from a different perspective we can learn something new that we did not, or could not, otherwise have known. This is how insights are discovered – quality insights based on unmet customer needs that create value for customers and the business alike. It is customer empathy that delivers this possibility, through perspective-taking and discovering a new way of looking at customers’ lives.

Customer empathy is giving us possibilities to find a new angle from which to see the world—a new angle that will be surprising, but obvious in hindsight. Whether that ‘new angle’ is through observing behaviour, having first-hand customer conversations or co-creating or prototyping, customer empathy delivers insights for innovation and competitive advantage and creates value.

If Forresters’s prediction is right, how CX management is currently practised could spell the end for a quarter of customer experience leaders. Maybe it’s time for a radical intervention – switching on and scaling customer empathy to enable better quality customer insights for the business’s thinking, problem solving and decision making.

Customer Empathy