Building Organizational Empathy: Perceive-Reflect-Adjust

Most people have an innate ability to be empathetic, but organizations tend to dampen this natural instinct. While a typical customer interaction cuts across many functional groups (a single purchase, for instance, may include contact with decisions by product management, sales, marketing, accounts payable, and legal organizations), companies push employees to stay focused on their functional areas. This myopic view is often reinforced by incentives focused on narrow domains, which creates a perceived chasm between customer empathy and employee success.

After examining much of the academic, medical, and business research on the topic of empathy, we developed a simple model for enhancing empathy that we call Perceive-Reflect-Adjust:

  • Perceive: Understand how someone else feels
  • Reflect: Examine how your actions affect those feelings
  • Adjust: Make changes to improve how someone else feels

P-R-A is a helpful model to follow for triggering individual empathy, but how can organizations apply P-R-A within their operations? By infusing it across the four customer experience core competencies:

Empathy4CompetenciesThe bottom line: Look for opportunities to Perceive, Reflect, and Adjust.

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

2 thoughts on “Building Organizational Empathy: Perceive-Reflect-Adjust”

  1. I really like this model. One note I’d suggest on perceive is we need to have a relatable experience in order to empathize with someone’s emotions. Smart companies help their employees do this by giving them a chance to be a customer. For example, some hotels have their associates stay there as a guest so they know what it’s like.

  2. Reblogged this on Optimizing Healing Healthcare and commented:
    In his blog, “Building Organizational Empathy: Perceive-Reflect-Adjust,” Bruce Temkin writes about a critical differentiating factor, namely, empathy — one’s ability to feel, understand and appreciate the experience of another. Because of the acute vulnerability associated with the majority of patient conditions and situations in healthcare, emotional intelligence of a hospital’s culture and its caregivers to perceive, reflect on and adjust to the felt-experiences of patients and their family members is essential. Why? Maya Angelou once wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    Creating a signature experience for our patients and their families at its most fundamental and basic level involves understanding how a patient and/or family member feels, examining our actions and how they affect the other and quickly and effectively making the necessary changes so as to improve how the patient/family member feels.

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