The Gist

  • Investment insight. Long-term commitment is key in CX.
  • Iteration imperative. Regular feedback loop enhances CX.
  • Empathy excellence. Understanding customers boosts brand loyalty.

When I was a kid, my family took a trip to Las Vegas. I distinctly remember how tiring it was walking through the large casinos, which are designed to make patrons weave through the entire floor near all the slot machines and table games to get to the exit. While this can make for some great people watching, if you’re just trying to get from point A to point B, it can be quite frustrating. I didn’t know it then, but this would be one of my first observations in customer experience — that some decisions prioritize the interest of the business and overlook the customer’s perspective, resulting in lack of empathy.

Long-term Investment Is Key to Retaining Customers

It’s no secret that good customer experience (CX) is table stakes for all companies. According to one study, 96% of customers will switch brands if they have a poor experience. It makes sense: With all the options consumers have at their fingertips, why would anyone continue engaging with a brand that has let them down? 

Thankfully, companies have more opportunities than ever to set themselves apart by taking a customer-centric approach to how they build experiences. Robust CX requires long-term investment, commitment, resources and buy-in from the beginning.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Optimize Your Customer Feedback Program

CX Success Lies in Understanding and Rapid Iterations

It also requires customer empathy. Companies who provide exceptional experiences can do so only because they’ve gained a deep understanding of their customers’ expectations, needs, values and motivations. They then take that understanding to build a level of customer intuition and let it inform everything they do.

Whether it's a new product, feature, or an entire company that’s launching, the customer must be considered every step of the way. Companies can do this by taking a page from software developers and conducting “two-week sprints” in which teams regularly regroup during production to discuss and incorporate customer feedback. This lets teams iterate in as close to real time as possible, so they can deliver products or services that hit the mark. This also helps companies avoid any oversights that could lead to costly rework — or worse — unhappy customers.

In addition to wowing new customers with high-value products and services, retaining existing customers is also critical. No one wants to lose customers, and once that trust is eroded, it can be hard — or impossible — to get back. Building brand trust and loyalty ties back to empathy: By understanding customers on a deep level, including the ways in which global events influence their thoughts, feelings and behaviors, companies have the best shot at retaining their business.

Related Article: Ratings and Reviews Help Customers Make Smart Buying Decisions

Learning Opportunities

3 Companies Excelling in Empathy-Driven Customer Experience

With all this being said, what does great, empathy-informed CX actually look like in action? Here are three companies who are doing it right.

1. Airbnb’s Pandemic Pivot

When companies were forced to move their services online during the pandemic, Airbnb took its “Experiences” virtual at a time when travel was at a standstill. Customers could participate in virtual travel experiences like meditating with a Japanese monk in Osaka, Japan; learning about coffee from a professional roaster in Mexico City; or taking Irish dance classes with a teacher in Galway, Ireland, from the safety of their homes. Airbnb’s quick pivot to virtual experiences demonstrated a high level of empathy for its customers. The company understood that travel restrictions hadn’t quelled customers’ wanderlust and desire to experience other cultures, so they provided a solution to fulfill that need virtually.

2. Amazon’s Keen Focus on Optimization and Personalization

Ecommerce giant Amazon has established itself as a leader when it comes to CX. The company is continually refining its customer experience journey to ensure it is frictionless. Things like subscription services, Amazon Hub Lockers (for people who may need/want a safer alternative to having packages left at their doorstep), one-click checkout, a curated library of routinely purchased items, and package bundling to limit shipping waste, are just a few ways Amazon has optimized the buying process for customers. Amazon also understands that the purchasing process is only one part of the experience and has taken steps to ease the friction of returning a product. From free return options and convenient drop off centers to the latest innovation of flagging products that are frequently returned, Amazon has taken care to think through the entire customer journey. There’s a reason why Amazon totally dominates the world of online shopping: Everything the company does is aimed at making customers’ lives easier through personalized experiences.

3. Jumbo’s Intentional Engagement Offerings

What people want out of their grocery shopping experience can vary wildly, and Dutch supermarket chain, Jumbo, understands that. For some, food shopping is just another task to check off their to-do list — they want to be in and out as quickly as possible. Others find pleasure in the task and see it as an enjoyable, and social, outing. In response, Jumbo introduced a new type of checkout lane to meet customers’ preferences: The “Kletskassa,” also known as the “Chatter Checkout” lane. The slower-paced checkout lane was originally designed for seniors who were grappling with isolation and loneliness during the pandemic. Today, it gives customers the option for some added socialization in their day, but only if they desire. Jumbo’s focus on creating intentional experiences and offering customers more choice is a standard of excellent CX that every company should strive for.

Set Yourself Apart From CX Competition

CX can make or break a business. It directly impacts customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and ultimately, a company’s bottom line. Companies have the opportunity to set themselves apart from the competition and gain (and retain) customers by bolstering their CX strategy.

Putting more energy toward building customer empathy, incorporating customer feedback, and enhancing personalization is the best way for any company to break through the noise of a crowded market and keep customers happy.

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