I’ve long advocated about the importance of empathy in customer experience, the need for more of it and why organizations should consider building an empathetic musculature if they want to sustainably improve how they engage and serve their customers.
This need for more empathy was highlighted last year in a multi-nation consumer survey, Personalization & Empathy in Customer Experience, conducted by Genesys which found that:
“Nearly half of consumers say the companies they regularly do business with don’t show them enough empathy when delivering customer service.”
Now, while the pandemic may have accentuated this need, it is not new and is unlikely to go away even as the effects of the pandemic recede. This desire for more empathy in how organizations engage with their customers has been around for years.
In fact, in a global 2016 study, Accenture found that customers felt as though companies had placed too much reliance on digital technologies, resulting in the development of “human-less” customer service – “human-less” being a proxy for an experience that is lacking in empathy.
However, despite a widely acknowledged need for more empathy in customer experience, to date, there hasn’t been, as far as I can see, a systematic attempt to consider and layout what a journey towards delivering that looks like.
So, I was excited to learn recently that Tony Bates and Dr Natalie Petouhoff, CEO and Chief Empathy Strategist of Genesys respectively, have written a new book called Empathy in Action: How to Deliver Great Customer Experiences at Scale. And, their book aims to tackle just that: how to build an organization that delivers more empathetic experiences.
Having read the book, I think it’s a great piece of work. It tackles the barriers and “blind spots” that stand in the way of organizations delivering more empathetic experiences to both their customers and employees. It describes the opportunity that is on offer to organizations if they get it right. It’s full of new concepts and ideas. It interrogates the role that metrics and advanced technology, like artificial intelligence, can play in this new empathetic future the authors envisage. But, it also offers a roadmap towards achieving that goal and a means of assessing where organizations are along their journey towards that goal.
Of all the concepts and ideas in the book, I particularly like their “pod” concept, an organizational structure that is inspired the V-shaped flight pattern of a flock of Canada geese. The authors, in the book, say that by flying in this formation, geese gain up to 71% greater flying range than when flying solo.
When you apply that thinking to organizational structures that aim to deliver more empathetic experiences, you get Customer Empathy Pods (CEPs). According to Bates and Petouhoff, CEPs consist of representatives from across the business (sales, marketing, service, operations etc.) that work together, dynamically changing the lead person depending on who is best equipped to serve the customer based on their real-time need.
The performance of these pods are exponentially enhanced when you layer in advanced technology, AI-enriched data, intelligent routing, automation and the provision of historical, contextual and predictive real-time information to the employee that is to serve the customer.
This concept reminded me of taking a systems-thinking approach to organizational structure. Interestingly, while many organizations acknowledge the use and value of systems thinking, many have struggled to put systems thinking ideas into practice and at scale.
The pod concept addresses that and offers a glimpse of a better future and a way past the perennial problems of siloed business practices that often dog the delivery of better customer experiences.
But, implementing CEPs, and the authors acknowledge this in the book, will require a complete cultural and organizational restructuring away from the siloed and functional departments that still inhabit many organizations today.
That’s the challenge at the core of the book. Nothing short of a transformation of business.
However, when I asked Bates about his goal for the book, he said, “If we stimulate a discussion about measurement, how we describe business and the way that we treat our customers and employees, then we will have achieved what we set out to achieve with the book.”
I hope the book stimulates much more than a discussion.
It’s a comprehensive and much-needed piece of work.
Bates and Petouhoff have laid down the challenge. Now, let’s see who picks it up and runs with it.