Do you really care about your customers?

You know what our customers are buying, where they go on holiday, and how much they spend on groceries each week … but do you really care?

Being able to empathise with others is all about connecting with other people on an emotional level. From a customer experience perspective this is something of a holy grail, and is supposed to lead us into deep insight about what motivates people to do the things they do. If we are lucky, we might even develop previously unrecognised insight leading us to create solutions to problems no-one else knows about.

It sounds good. So why do our eyes glaze over as soon as designers start talking about compassion for customers, or of needing to connect emotionally? Even talking to customers is a step too far for some businesses.

3 Simple Ways to Empathise with your Customers

Understanding the emotional drivers behind customer decision making doesn’t have to be a mystery. Here are three simple ways to make a start:

  1. Customer Safari – break out the credit card and be a customer. Go shopping, try out the web site, walk into the store
  2. Ethnographic research – get your clip board and go watch someone go about their business (note: observe don’t guess)
  3. Conversation – talk to people, ask open ended questions, reignite your ability to listen

Paul Boag suggests that attitude is everything. If we really want to empathise with people, we will need some of our own experience to draw upon. If you are going to talk to be about cycling, get on a bike before hand. The idea is to connect with your own physical experiences so you can relate to those same experiences as seen from somebody else’s point of view. Did they have the same challenges as you? If not, why not?

Empathising with Customers who Make No Sense

Empathising with people who are mostly like us is easy. What about when our customers don’t make sense, or do the unexpected? In this illuminating TED talk, Sam Richards shows us how we can empathise with people from completely different viewpoints. It’s uncomfortable for a start. And takes effort as we force ourselves to let go of our own values and try to empathise with the values of somebody else.

To really step inside another person’s shoes we have to do more than try it out for ourselves, or ask them why they did a particular thing. We need to understand them. We have to feel things the way they do. This is where we immerse ourselves in customer prototypes, and demographic information. It;s where we unpack our observations, and go wide. Empathy takes time, and effort. But it can be done. And it’s worth it.


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