candy  hearts
PHOTO: Laura Ockel

Valentine’s Day is approaching. And while businesses won’t be sending their customers chocolates and flowers, there’s still a lot they can do to show how much they care — every day of the year. 

More than ever, consumers are seeking out and staying loyal to businesses that display understanding and empathy in every interaction. Whether it means easily filing a claim with an insurance provider, being able to return clothes free of charge, or getting through to customer support without a battle, companies need to forge authentic connections with customers.

With this in mind, let’s look at four strategies that can play Cupid for companies and customers.

Close the Empathy Gap

According to a study from Capgemini, 75% of organizations believe they’re customer-centric, yet only 30% of their customers agree. This gap — commonly referred to as the empathy gap — makes for a lose-lose situation. It not only decreases customer satisfaction and loyalty in the moment, but the divide typically grows over time and results in an even wider gap between a company and its customers in the long run.

Ensuring your company is protected from the detrimental effects of an empathy gap can be as simple as getting a pulse on where your organization stands. Asking internal leaders how customer-centric they think the company is, and then gathering your customers’ perspective on the same topic, can bring to life the gap that may exist. And it will likely also help you uncover critical insights that can then help close that gap.

Related Article: Customer Experience Needs Empathy Now More Than Ever

Forget What You Think You Know About Your Customers

It can be tempting to make assumptions about customers, especially when we rely heavily on demographics and other “flat” data that doesn’t help you understand your customers as human beings. However, a customer's age, income, location and other basic information sheds little light on who they really are. It doesn’t tell you what they’re thinking, feeling or need. Having preconceived ideas about customers distances you from them, and clouds your interpretation of their feedback. 

The pandemic has made this even more true. The impact of COVID-19 has dramatically influenced consumer behavior, and companies can no longer operate based on old models of what they think their customers want and need.

It’s time to forget everything you knew about your customers pre-pandemic and start fresh with an open mind. Coming from a place of understanding and empathy for the challenges consumers are grappling with as a result of the pandemic is key. Be sure to leave any past assumptions at the door.

Related Article: How Has the Customer Journey Shifted?

Make the Time to Connect With Your Customers

Human interaction is also at an all-time low for many people. This poses an opportunity for brands to show they truly care about their customers by reaching out to them and engaging in meaningful conversation. 

Remote conferencing and usability testing software provides a safe and effective way to touch base with them and make sure you understand their needs so you’re creating experiences they value. But this goes beyond just getting feedback on products and services. During a time in which many individuals are lacking in human connection, companies who go out of their way to remain connected to their customers stand out. It doesn’t have to be complicated, either — it can be as easy as a quick phone call or a coffee over Zoom. 

Related Article: Why Now Is the Time to Experiment With Your Customer Experience

Make It Approachable

It’s important to remember that prioritizing empathy doesn’t have to be complicated or require a ton of extra time and resources. It may look like getting feedback on a new product idea or giving customers the opportunity to chat virtually, face-to-face, about something that’s top of mind for them. Making empathy approachable makes it a sustainable operating framework that is scalable throughout an organization. It doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking, but it will have a profound impact on your relationships with customers. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, all. To liberally paraphrase the scholar Max Müller, a flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and a business can’t live without love and empathy for customers.