Five Ways That Organizations Crush Customer Empathy (Video)

Human beings are naturally empathetic, yet that tendency can get crushed when they go to work. Watch and read below…

Did you know that human beings are genetically wired for empathy? Our brains have something called mirror neurons that allow us to virtually feel what someone else is feeling. If you see your friend bump her head, then you are likely to react almost as if it had happened to you.

If people are naturally empathetic, then why aren’t most organizations, which are just collections of people, super empathetic towards their customers?

It turns out that organizations inhibit natural empathy in many ways. Here are five of those empathy inhibitors:

  • Inhibitor 1: Individual Context. People view the world through their own perspectives, so your natural empathy may not match the reaction of a customer who is quite different than you. For instance, a wealthy middle-aged marketing executive in New York City has a very different lens on the world than does an 18-year old from a poor, rural community. Also, employees know a lot more about their company’s products, processes, terminology, and organizational structure. So experiences that make sense to employees can often seem very complicated to customers.
  • Inhibitor 2: Human Bias. Companies often design experiences as if their customers were perfectly rational robots, but human beings aren’t like that. While people sometimes use rational thinking, which relies on logic and reason to make decisions, we more frequently use intuitive thinking, which relies on mental shortcuts and cognitive bias to make decisions. Rather than supporting customers’ unconscious decision rules like preferring to maintain the status quo, companies create experiences that slow down customers’ progress, or even derail them completely.
  • Inhibitor 3: Group Think. It turns out that people who are in close quarters, like a work team, tend to conform to a consistent point of view. Since companies often use different metrics for different groups, employees are encouraged to develop a very myopic view of their team’s responsibilities. As a result, the needs of employees’ teams take up so much head space that they drown out any thoughts about the needs of customers.
  • Inhibitor 4: Corporate Culture. Employees tend to conform to their surroundings. When leaders set expectations for a certain type of behavior, employees will try to meet those expectations – even if doing so hurts customers. When the Wells Fargo CEO set an unsustainable goal for the number of products sold to customers, employees across the organization tried to make it happen – even if it they knew it may not be good for customers.
  • Inhibitor 5: Emotional Illiteracy. Leaders in companies rarely discuss customer emotions. It’s not their fault; most people are uncomfortable discussing emotions in any setting. Within companies, emotions are often viewed as being too “soft” or “squishy” to focus on. This lack of dialogue about emotion keeps organizations from fully understanding and addressing the needs, wants, and desires of their customers.

While these inhibitors can drain the customer empathy out of an organization, they don’t need to. Now that you know what they are you can look for them and suppress their impact.

The bottom line: You need to actively unleash employees’ natural empathy.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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