Empathy – the Inevitable Part of your Customer Experience Summer Kit

June 24, 201610min

Brands spend a lot of thought, time and money creating a proposition and values, communicating that – and then delivering on the promise. It is no secret that emotional engagement is key to delivery and subsequent loyalty, but it is an area that is often ignored, especially in delivering that all-important communication with a customer in an empathetic way. Imagine if you could talk to your customer with empathy, in a way that you would do as a person in real life?

Whilst on a short holiday recently I was reading a novel by an author that I hadn’t read before. It was outstanding: one of the best thrillers that I have read for a very long time. So I looked up the author on Twitter and tweeted him, thinking that my message would disappear in to the ether never to surface again. Thirty seconds later, having read my tweet, the author responded. Wow! We had a quick, and very pleasant, conversation and he went back to work – and I went back to the novel. But my first thought, being in this business, was “What if a brand spoke to me like that? How loyal would I be?”The author understood the context, he said the right thing to the right person at the right time. He was empathetic. More importantly, he used context to establish empathy.

“To have true engagement, we have to scale empathy,” says my inQuba colleague, CEO Michael Renzon. The problem, however, is that empathy doesn’t scale. Renzon points out that empathy requires context: Knowing when it is the right time to speak to the right people, and to say the right thing. “Timing is essential to interactions that build empathy, but timing rests on understanding the customer’s context. The only way to solve the empathy problem is to move from customer journey mapping to customer context mapping. That’s what we call CXtended.”

How does CXtended work?

So imagine you are putting together a basic CX kit for your holiday. Voice of the Customer feedback is pretty straightforward so, for example, along with that customer journey – usually a single linear channel – four things happen. After number three you send a survey to gather feedback, you act on it, and something ultimately happens. Fantastic! VoC ticked off and in the box. But is that really empathetic?

Let’s take a typical story. It’s Bank Holiday time so you have arranged for you and your family to meet a friend’s family on the beach for a day out in the sunshine at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning. The next day the car is loaded with assorted bags, paraphernalia and family and you are ready for the off. You get a text from your friend to say that, due to a typical family running-around-like-mad situation that they have missed their train and they will be there at 11 instead. No problem, we’ll have an extra hour or take the drive more leisurely. Halfway to the beach you get an email from your friend to apologise and say that they have now missed their connection and they will meet you for lunch instead. No problem, a bit disappointing, but you can have a whole morning of family time on the beach first. Just as you are planning lunch you get a phone call from your friend. They have just realised that they have ended up at the wrong beach a few miles away and that they’ll be there early afternoon. Or they could turn around and go home. Don’t worry, you say. You can have lunch, meet them when they arrive and spend a good few hours together as you haven’t seen them for ages and you would rather spend some time with them today as you probably won’t all be able to catch up together for ages yet. Eventually your friends arrive – five hours late – but you all have a great time on the beach, have supper together and everyone has had a great time. That’s how we do it in real life. We show empathy based on the context of the journey and situation.

Basic VoC right now, however means your friends have arranged to meet you at ten in the morning and then they just turn up at gone three and say “So, how do you feel?”You don’t do this with your friends so why do this with your customers when you can communicate throughout the process and use the CXtended approach with customer context mapping?

Renzon explains further:

“Customer context mapping is invaluable in every industry. In the travel sector, for example, airlines could use the context to know that passenger 23A is a mother travelling with a child, and provide extra luggage weight allowance so that her experienced improves – this way, she can pack one bag instead of two, making walking through the airport easier. In insurance, the claims process could be greatly improved through CXtended. Context would allow insurers to know exactly who customer John Smith is, and when he needs to claim, could dispense with a lot of the processes he would have to go through today.”

He adds that customer journey mapping has become the cornerstone of the industry, and while it has proven key to moving CX forward, it has a number of shortfalls. Primary among these is the fact that customer journey maps can be equated to old-fashioned printed maps – they are frozen in time.

“Customer journey mapping is the analogue version of customer context mapping. In much the same way paper maps were replaced by apps like Google Maps as a result of the greater functionality offered, customer journey mapping needs to evolve into customer context mapping,” Renzon says. “Customer journey mapping assumes most customers and journeys are largely the same, and doesn’t deal well with exceptions. People are falling through the customer journey, and those people are being rehabilitated manually.”

He adds that, unlike journey mapping, context mapping is not passive.

CXtended is not about starting from scratch. It’s about finding pockets of empathy and adding engagement to the customer story through that empathy. You need context to get the timing right, the messaging right, and reach the right person, and the only way to arm people in an organisation with empathy is through context.”

Having the customer’s voice at the center of every engagement allows for the context needed to reveal meaningful patterns. “As an industry, we need to look at what we are doing, and why. Today, we are measuring proxies for relevance, but CXtended asks for a change of mindset. Instead of the journey, we need to think about each state in each stage of the journey. Advocacy is easily achieved if the company creates a story that customers will tell others about.”

Customer context mapping is the natural evolution to customer journey mapping. It is the cornerstone of scaling empathy. It will, however, require a step-change in thinking. Customer engagement and communication is no longer the holy cow of the Marketing Department. CX Managers not only have a right but a responsibility to smart and relevant communications through the customer journey to scale empathy. This not only requires a change in mind-set but a change in tool-set using an integrated customer experience platform.

And, by the way, the day after the tweet from the author I went out and bought his other novel. I managed to read some of it on the beach whilst waiting for my friends to arrive…

Interesting links:


Andy Wand

Andy Wand

Andy is responsible for sales and business development for inQuba across the UK and Europe. He began his career selling advertising in the Middle East and Asia Pacific regions before being headhunted to manage a portfolio of telecoms publications in the UK. He then launched an innovative media monitoring service for the UK IT/Telecoms sector, in addition to running his own PR and marketing consultancy. Andy’s career progressed through an assortment of design and brand agencies before he joined the exciting world of customer experience nearly ten years ago. Andy has been a judge at the UK Customer Experience Awards for the last four years, is a member of the Market Research Society and holds a Masters equivalent in Leadership & Management from the Chartered Management Institute.




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