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Unlocking Empathy: A Journey into Your Customers’ Perspective


“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Damon Richard, a customer care expert.

If you don’t know your customers, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to meet their needs, deliver better customer experiences and, ultimately, show them you care. That knowledge comes from empathy—putting yourself in another person’s shoes, understanding their thoughts and feelings, and using that identification to guide actions. Practicing empathy can be easier said than done. Only 62% of senior executives say they can put themselves in their customers’ shoes.

A recent Forrester report—Spark, Nurture and Fire Up Empathy to Drive Innovation—describes strategies to ignite empathy and create a customer-centric business. While technology plays a crucial role in shaping customer experiences, it’s important to remember that at the core of every great interaction is empathy. The insights from this report have far-reaching implications for organizations seeking to drive innovation across the entire customer journey.

What Is Customer Empathy and Why Is It Crucial?

Customer empathy is the ability to see things from the customer’s perspective and comprehend their pain points. Customer empathy means understanding:

  1. What a consumer experiences when they use your products or services
  2. Customers’ deeper needs, motivations and goals that influenced their decision to engage with your brand in the first place

Recognizing customer needs and desires helps you meet those needs, improving CX—and the bottom line. Greater customer empathy builds trust, loyalty and meaningful relationships that increase customer lifetime value.

According to a survey of 250 individuals at 180 B2B companies, companies with very mature customer-centricity realized 2.5X greater revenue growth by leading with empathy compared with those reporting “very immature” customer-centricity.


Three Strategies to Ignite Customer Empathy


1. Connect to uncover how people feel, behave, and think.

CX teams need to observe and understand customers’ experiences before they try to improve them. To predict customer intent and communicate proactively, you must understand the path customers take while interacting with your brand.

  • How do they purchase an item, schedule an appointment or service, pay their bills and get support for a problem?
  • Where does the process break down? (e.g. abandon shopping cart, hang up on IVR, receive offers during a service issue)
  • What are the pain points driving calls into the contact center? (e.g. bill confusion, lack of proactive communication)


Your job is to answer such questions by  analyzing customer actions in context to better understand why they behave the way they do. Your research team can gather information about customer behavior through a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods, including surveys and customer immersion sessions (such as interviews and focus groups). Start with qualitative research that favors immersive and observational tools to connect with the human and uncover the “why” behind context, emotion and both implicit and explicit behavior.

With a better understanding of consumer behavior and needs, journey analytics and journey orchestration will aid continuous improvement of the customer experience, guiding customers toward the right actions to meet their needs in real time. When customers abandon their shopping cart, the journey orchestration engine sends messages via their preferred channel encouraging them to complete their purchase, perhaps by offering a discount. This intelligence prevents sending the wrong message, so customers who are on a customer service journey don’t receive targeted promotions. It improves communication by proactively sending delivery or application status updates.


2. Bring stakeholders along with audience empathy.

Front line, customer-facing employees should participate in customer research and immersion sessions firsthand. For example, when mapping appointment scheduling and reminder journeys, include the front desk employees who speak with patients directly. Patients who receive too many appointment reminders—even after they’ve confirmed their appointment—may become annoyed and complain while checking in.


3. Enable employees to act with empathy at scale.

Businesses need to enable empathy through people, processes and technology. Ritz Carlton empowers its employees to spend up to $2000 per incident to solve customer problems without a manager’s approval. An exhausted, jet-lagged traveler doesn’t have to speak with three people—or pay more—to be upgraded to a better suite when their air conditioning isn’t up to snuff, even if it’s the only category available. Prioritizing customer needs—and relationships—pays off for the luxury hotel brand, whose average customer will spend $250,000 with the Ritz over their lifetime.

Empathy allows employees to create memorable moments and lasting relationships. Identify opportunities to show customers you care about them as people—not just accounts. A bank customer just opened a home loan? Send them a congratulations note.

Chewy, a pet food and supplies e-commerce company known for outstanding CX, sends flowers to customers whose pets have recently died. Those satisfied, grateful Chewy customers often share their stories (and photos of the flowers) on social media. One Chewy customer tweeted about her “wow” experience when she called to ask about returning an unopened bag of food after her dog died. Chewy gave her a full refund, told her to donate the food to a local shelter, and sent flowers, with a note signed by the person she spoke with. That tweet got 750,000 likes and 50,000 re-tweets, and news outlets, including Time and Fortune, covered the story.

Combine MarTech With Empathy for Superior CX and Business Outcomes

While technology collects data and even executes decisioning, empathy provides the essential understanding of customers’ emotions, needs and experiences. By combining technology with an empathetic approach, CX teams create exceptional customer experiences that show you care–and lead to greater loyalty and customer lifetime value. Read the Forrester report, Spark, Nurture and Fire Up Empathy to Drive Innovation, to discover six more strategies to ignite empathy and supercharge CX.

Amy Szeto Headshot

Amy Szeto

Dir Analyst Relations