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"Our rational minds are not behind the wheel driving us to a purchasing decision; our subconscious is."  - Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman

95% of purchase decisions are subconscious.
  • Are we saying you must learn psychology? No.
  • Is there an alternative? Yes - the best one. Data.

A data-driven approach helps you achieve customer empathy more effectively. Why'd anyone run a company on empathy alone when there are ways to quantify it?   

With customer empathy, it's the 'why' that matters. However, the "what" is equally important for making it data-driven. Customers naturally develop perceptions throughout their journey. Interactive and non-interactive touchpoints influence their thought processes but also bring multifarious opportunities to the table in the form of data sets. 

Before understanding how to amplify customer empathy using data, let's discuss the thin line between the voice of the customer and empathy. 

Difference Between Voice of the Customer and Empathy

"People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole."  - Theodore Levitt, HBR Editor

The customer feedback you accumulate isn't the only metric you need. Yes, that's one of the Voice-of-Customer (VoC) best practices, yet executive leaders are missing the trick. Let's take a cue from the quote mentioned above. Customers would leave their feedback based on the unavailability of a quarter-inch drill. However, customer empathy would mean an emotion such as "I couldn't drill a quarter-inch hole."

VoC vs Customer Empathy: Why Does it Matter?

Customer empathy is the bigger picture most CX leaders fail to see, while VoC is one of its many aspects. Relying only on VoC metrics negates the possibility of introducing context-led data-driven strategies to accomplish customer empathy goals. 

"Many businesses focus solely on customer feedback or reviews as a way to ensure they are performing to the customer's needs, however tracking journey time, drop-out points, and touchpoints show a more in-depth picture." - Lauren Harding, Head Of Customer Experience, Spring

There are decision-making and sentimental tenets of the customer journey. While feedback will help with data collection, only an emotional connection with the customers can provide rich insights into their journey. Hence, the difference is noteworthy.

The Role of Customer Journey Analytics

"Brands should look across the end-to-end journey. With a sound, quantitative approach, brands can identify which moments to deprioritize, which to innovate around, and which to simply fix so that they are on par with the competition." - Erin Wallace, Global CXManager, BASF Agricultural Solutions.

Customer journey analytics is the preface to customer empathy. It involves: 

  • Evaluating customer needs and expectations
  • Compiling data sources and setting up data junctions
  • Laying down Customer Experience standards
  • Comparing customer interactions with the outcomes
  • Corresponding customer journey data to an actionable framework

Now, what if we told you that data-driven customer empathy does not begin with data? 

It commences with empathy. Look closely through the pointers mentioned above, and you'll realize how action-oriented they are. The thing is - customer sentiments are devoid of actions during their journey itself. Hence, it's tricky to detect them, let alone analyze them. 

There's a great deal of planning required before you can initiate the analytical process and culture-building, such as:

  • Mapping of the key customer interaction points
  • Understanding the 'WHYs' of customer behavior
  • Identifying pain points and customer motivations

The data game must be taken seriously if you want to break out of the customer empathy vacuum.

5 Ways to Build a Data-Driven Customer Empathy Culture

"In the overall consumer journey, I envision the following phrases: 'See Me, Know Me, Understand Me, and Show Me. We are just starting to fully realize the 'Understand Me' phase. But, it is the 'Show Me' phase brands need to be most aware of." - Melissa Drew, Associate Partner, IBM

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So how do you blend empathy with data using customer journey analytics? 

1. Engage

According to a PwC report, 82% of customers in the US and 74% outside the US desire humanized interaction from brands. 

The first and foremost step you can take as an executive leader is establishing engagement points with your customers. From the decision-making phase to checkouts - you can provide a personalized experience to your customers using AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) technologies. The aim is to be as data-intensive as possible while leveraging such technologies.

You can provide your team with direct engagement facilities to address customer issues and queries - before they make purchases. You can set up data collection methods at every junction where customer actions are studied, and relevant data is obtained. Such engaging points will give you a head-start in interpreting customer perceptions, behaviors, challenges they face, and other key facets of their journey.

You can start by implementing a pro-governance CX leadership approach to get specialists on board with specific customer success duties.

2. Analyze

Once you have your engagement plan in place, you can get your hands on rich insights. For instance, you should know whenever a customer has a bad experience with a sales executive or doesn't buy a product/service due to pricing issues. Everything is possible through targeted data analytics, from interactive web designs to tracking user journeys on your website. 

It's all about ascertaining the cause of customer actions. For example: 

  • Why do your customers act in a certain way? 
  • Why do they purchase what they purchase?
  • Why do they leave your store/website empty-handed?
  • What did they buy earlier, and why was there a change in their buying intent?
  • What do they feel about your products/services?
  • How do they stay motivated to buy from you again?

3. Solve

After gaining access to actionable data, deduce the high-gravity issues and further categorize them into long-term, short-term, and immediate improvements. Solve the problems for your customers and mitigate every bit of the derailing impression they have of your products/services or brand as a whole.

As per the PwC report mentioned earlier, there's a clear lack of sync between customer needs and the brand's solutions. In fact, a meager 38% of US customers have experienced empathy from the employees, while 46% of customers outside the US have stated this.

4. Emphasize

It's time to elucidate all the confusion and doubts your customers have felt. All the problems you solve must be emphasized and marketed so that it sends a positive message of customer empathy.

You can empower your marketing workforce to convey how your brand solved various problems of the customers, for instance, through a Press Release. For example, Semrush resorted to empathy marketing and even demonstrated an empathy map on its official Twitter handle a couple of years back.

5. Detect

Data-driven customer empathy is not a one-stop destination. It's a continuous process a brand must carry out to ensure customer satisfaction and retention for the times to come.

How would you make this happen?

Data analytics also leaves behind long trails of trends based on past insights. The ultimate solution is to introduce detection techniques to determine customer sentiments and conduct predictive analysis.

3 Biggest Challenges Executive Leaders Must Overcome 

"Every interaction a customer has with an organization is an opportunity to listen and then tailor the experience according to the customer's current context, but many do not have the data, systems, and business processes in place to respond and act in this way." - Jo Boswell, Director, Sentio-B Ltd

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When you separate a data-driven approach from customer empathy - there's just a huge void and no culture whatsoever. Organizations must strike a chord with a strong operational and functional foundation to tackle these 3 prevalent challenges:

1. Data Silos 

Organizations have traditional ways intact of maintaining data silos - halting access to data for a large portion of departments. Cross-divisional data sharing and intra-organizational input surveys are the need of the hour to break this barrier.

2. Workforce Involvement

Everyone in the organization must be equipped enough to interact, act, and coordinate to offer the best possible solution in real time. Dependencies and lack of inter-departmental engagement pose a serious challenge for any company looking to have a data-driven empathy culture.

3. Wide-ranging Customer Emotions

Brands have to deal with a diversified range of customers with different queries and expectations. This makes dynamic data analytics even more crucial so that the bottom-up approach can seamlessly work within the organizational structure.

The Bottomline

There's growing anticipation among customer groups to see their favorite brands acknowledge their sentiments and emotions. The actions you take are decisive in 3 metrics: 

  1. Customer loyalty towards your brand and its legacy
  2. Customer engagement with your brand's products/services
  3. Customer relationship with your brand throughout the journey

When companies leverage hi-tech customer journey analytics, they become more capable of providing better customer experiences.

This is why CX leaders must prioritize a data-driven customer empathy culture where everyone aims to feel, connect, and resonate with customer sentiments.

Read this Clooktrack CX Report where 102 CX Experts participated and contributed to exciting data revelations.