winking woman standing in front of a red wall
PHOTO: Giorgio Encinas

Over the past few months I’ve chatted with people from a lot of companies who say their 2019 goal is to become more customer-centric.

In each of those conversations, I emphasize that the most impactful change is creating an environment where all employees, regardless of title, see the customer as their North Star. To catalyze this transformation, customer experience (CX) champions should analyze feedback with empathy, operationalize insights throughout their organizations and foster constant communication about their most important stakeholder: the customer.

Listen Up: Empathy Is Key

Studies show that empathy is a key driver of customer loyalty. Gartner has even gone so far as to suggest that excluding empathy from a CX program is a recipe for failure.

To best express empathy, companies should actively listen to their customers and make an effort to recognize both their implicit and explicit needs. Take Boxed, for example: The online wholesale retailer removed the “pink tax” from women’s products to show, on a personal level, that it cares about any social inequalities its customers may face.

Similarly, Ritz Carlton employees can spend up to $2,000 per day per guest to improve guest experiences, no questions asked. Because they don’t have to deal with red tape, they’re able to create exceptional experiences to demonstrate on the spot that they not only understand but value guest feedback. Acknowledging guests’ emotions and reacting in ways that validate their feelings increases the chances that the guests will stay at Ritz Carlton hotels again.

Investing in empathy is worth the cost — and that’s especially true for a high-end company like Ritz Carlton, whose customers spend an average of a quarter of a million dollars with the company over the course of their lifetimes.

At the heart of the interactions between a company’s employees and its customers is a human connection. And while it may seem counterintuitive, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) will play a crucial role in empowering brands in many industries to make that human connection and express empathy at every turn. With AI-powered systems, organizations can analyze customer feedback across multiple communication channels granularly, allowing them to quantify otherwise qualitative feedback at scale. Then, based on a robust analysis of feedback, employees can determine which changes to make and how to best execute them.

Related Article: Your Customer Experience Won't Shine Without Empathy

Amplify the Customer Voice

CX champions have to be collaborative problem solvers, willing to get their hands dirty and work with employees at all levels and teams in every department to make necessary changes. By operationalizing customer insights, they can disperse valuable customer information throughout the company.

Adobe, for example, has created a system wherein employees from any department can listen to recorded customer calls. That helps Adobe employees make informed decisions within their business units by giving them insight into the customer journey and illuminating how users interact with the brand’s products.

Similarly, at Amazon, CEO Jeff Bezos famously insists on reserving a seat for the customer at every meeting. His bold allotment of physical space for the customer voice encourages all employees, regardless of department, to both listen to and assess customer feedback as if it were coming from any other stakeholder.

CX champions can take practices like those of Adobe and Amazon a step further by providing access to aggregated customer sentiment and effort data. Whether sharing that information within structured meetings, across company communication channels, or both, distributing insights will empower employees at every level to turn customer feedback into informed decisions.

Related Article: Transforming Listening Into Action: Fortifying Voice of the Customer Programs

Demonstrate Value to the C-Suite and Beyond

Part of a CX champion’s responsibility is to consistently demonstrate why the customer voice is so important and how decisions informed by feedback impact the business as a whole. Just as customer insights should not be siloed within the CX team, neither should the results of CX initiatives. Employees can track the business value of all improvements their team has catalyzed and share them with key stakeholders to illuminate the impact of the program. Highly tailored, data-driven presentations for those responsible for allocating the CX team’s budget will go a long way toward earning passionate supporters.

It is especially important for global organizations to demonstrate the value of the CX program across the company. 

With new messaging platforms like Slack and AI-enhanced streaming video solutions, CX champions can foster consistent communication within the company to explain initiatives designed to address customer complaints and highlight the results. When other members of the organization see the magnitude of customer experience data and how specifically it is analyzed, categorized and transformed into actionable insights, it not only bolsters credibility but also encourages people throughout the company to become customer enthusiasts.

Customer-centricity begins with a deep understanding of common feedback and the thoughtful implementation of changes that address customer sentiment, effort and emotion. CX champions can then foster interdepartmental collaboration and communication to build excitement around customer feedback and demonstrate the power of customer feedback within their organization.

With an ethos fixated on the customer, and the technology to turn big data into impactful decisions, companies will see increases in brand loyalty and profitability.

Related Article: How to Convince Your CFO to Invest in Customer Experience