In a few hours from now I will publish new research on empathy in the design of customer processes. The piece explores empathy for the employee and empathy for the customer. Looking out at businesses, empathy is not a first-order concern. Nor are the chief information officers or data scientists abundant in their empathy towards customer-facing employees or customers themselves. Usually the CIO skill set purportedly is on their ability to translate IT projects into the language of business outcomes. Yet ‘business outcome’ is generally growth and profit, with little sensitivity to the relationship economics that drive customers to or from a business.
Recently I was in New York City at one of the largest retailers in the United States. A retailer that has more foot traffic than just about any tourist attraction in New York. They are also a client that is proud of their ‘Omni-channel capabilities.’ After shopping in their physical store, a really amazing place not unlike the market on Jakku in the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And here is the catch: after returning home and finding that the gift that I had purchased was ill-fitting, I made the mistake of calling ‘Customer Service.’ The phone based customer service rep knew nothing about my purchase. There was nothing to be done but return it to the store. The item was not on the web, nor was the purchase traceable on my phone via the company’s mobile app. And when I called back to just ask about a return rather than an exchange, the polite young agent had no record of me calling in before, nor was she able to accept my return.
So: mobile does not understand web does not synchronize with store which is disconnected to the phone based support. And for this they pay tens of millions of dollars in process work, and advertise in the Press that they embrace an Omnichannel Customer Experience. Most of us lack the mechanisms to surface this kind of failure to the CEO and C-Suite, nor does the C-Suite encourage finding out the true customer experience.
Before you jump to the conclusion that you are way, way better than that, ask yourself: how do you know? Are your customers saying this? Which customers? Your more mature customer base? Younger and more mobile customers? Have you really analyzed your cross-channel strategies for convenience and consistency? Are you sure that the group doing the measurement is impartial and has displayed the true state of affairs? Empathy entails the awareness of the impressions that your processes have on customers and employees alike. Do you have a real sense of what motivates employees? Motivates the customer? Are you perceptive to their evolving needs versus their needs from five years ago? Would you define your IT strategy as empathetic? Cognizant of the sensations that you create in employees and customers and prospects?
If all of the above are ‘yes, definitely,’ then you are likely living an illusion or Amazon, but not both. But if you are that rare company, let us know how you do it!!!
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