Developing Empathy and Customer-Centric Culture

By Hassan Mohammad, CCXP posted 03-17-2020 03:21 PM


The menu was full of options. I had finally decided to go for an ice cream sundae--albeit with a minor request to swap one scoop of chocolate for strawberry. After all, as a customer, it was a simple ‘like for like’ replacement. Unexpectedly, the reply I received was, "Sorry, we cannot do this. It will show up as a negative on our inventory--my balance sheet will show that we have used an additional scoop of strawberry ice cream instead of showing it as a simple swap of flavours, and I will be held responsible for this loss. If you would like to have it done your way, then please choose the ‘create your own/make it your way’ option, although this will be more expensive than the standard combinations shown in our menu."

 It made me feel as if I was going to be the cause of great inconvenience to this gentleman. All he cared about was his process, his inventory, his boss and his motivation of making numbers look good (on the face of it, what difference in cost would it have made to swap one flavour for another? Nothing.

 Now, imagine yourself as a CX professional working within this organisation. What would you have done upon learning about my situation as a customer? What went wrong (or didn’t go wrong) and why? I’m interested in learning what actions you would take. 

 Here’s how you might want to tackle the problem at hand.

Create a Customer Strategy

A well-defined customer strategy is aligned with your brand promise and business objectives, creating a clear link between your organisation’s internal capabilities (financial and technical) and your brand promise.

 Co-create, with your colleagues, the intended experience you wish to create for your customers, identify what this experience should look like and how you plan to get there. A solid customer strategy should provide you with a set of KPI’s and behaviour drivers, across all job roles, that help employees in decision making, prioritising investments and defining the intended customer experience.

 Communicate and Acknowledge

It’s great having a well-defined customer strategy in place, but it’s even more important to communicate it across the organisation. You must clearly define each employee's role in bringing the customer strategy to life and acknowledge those who are showcasing the right behaviours.

 Hire for cultural fit and behaviours

Zoom into the beginning of the ‘employee journey’ and re-think your hiring policies. Hire for cultural fit and look for certain behaviours or traits that you’d want your employees to possess--positivity, optimism, and a natural flair for serving people. It’s easier to bring people up to speed with product knowledge compared with the effort it takes to to change behaviour.LEGO blocks with hands in a learning workshop

 Go on a safari

One of the most powerful ways to uncover insights is to walk through the journey yourself while taking notes and making observations. Step out of your natural working environment and get your employees to observe customers and their fellow employees (working in a different business unit) in their natural environment. This will open their eyes and create empathy towards both customers and their colleagues.

 Get CX Training to stick

To develop a truly customer-centric culture, it’s important to develop bespoke training programs that will firstly help you understand what will work for your employees and secondly, help your employees understand what they need to do to improve and implement customer-centricity and deliver on promises in their individual roles.

 Training should be done in a continuous manner and not as a one-off project to ensure motivation and reinforcement of CX principles.

Encourage your people to apply what they’ve learned within their domain or context and relay back information in future sessions.

 Once employees start to understand how CX plays a part within their job roles, are equipped with appropriate CX tools and methods, are acknowledged and feel empowered, they will give more attention to CX, develop empathy and go the extra mile to serve customers.