Why Every Business Leader Should Make An Empathy Plan For 2022

Stress.

Defined by Merriam-Webster as “something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety,” stress has been rising in Americans for years. But now it seems to have become the prevailing emotion of the 2020s.

In a survey earlier this year by the American Psychological Association, 84 percent of adults reported feeling at least one emotion associated with prolonged stress in the preceding two weeks. The most significant sources of anxiety were the future of the nation, the coronavirus pandemic, and political unrest.

For businesses, this environment has accelerated a dramatic change: Market winners and losers are being decided based on empathy—companies’ ability to put themselves in customers’ shoes and show, in every interaction, deep and genuine concern for their wants, needs, and priorities.

PERMENENTLY CHANGED CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS

To be sure, customer experience (CX)—how a company engages with customers at every stage of the buying journey—already had become an essential business priority in a digital age that has given consumers unprecedented choices and power. But making customers feel trust and delight on an emotional level has gone from being an aspiration to an expectation in the last year and a half.

A recent report by contact center technology provider Talkdesk shows that most consumers have higher expectations of companies they do business with today than before the pandemic.

In the retail sector specifically, according to the study, 58 percent of retail customers said their expectations of their preferred brands have increased in the last year. “Ease, speed and ability to transition across channels of choice during interactions rate among their top priorities,” the report said.

According to a McKinsey report in August, e-commerce sales continue to experience huge growth, with online penetration remaining approximately 35 percent above pre-pandemic levels and e-commerce logging more than 40 percent growth over the past 12 months.

This means that retailers truly can no longer ignore that the line between digital and in-store experiences for consumers has rapidly disappeared and consumers no longer differentiate where and when they had an experience with a business, just how it felt.

Even the most eternal optimist would have a hard time believing the stressed-out climate will subside anytime soon, so businesses need to be planning for 2022 and beyond with one thing in mind: How can we forge a memorably positive emotional connection with customers and consistently deliver a consistently delightful, empathy-driven experience? Here are three ways to get there.

STEPS TO EMPATHY-DRIVEN CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

1. Make customer empathy the company’s central cultural value.

Many businesses still operate in silos, but, as described above, customers no longer do. Thus, companies need to shed old ways of how the business has been structured and organized and adopt new ones based solely on how customers see and work with them. Everyone on every team in every department must have a clear understanding of their role in providing a holistic, empathy-driven experience and how each channel and touchpoint integrates to make that happen.

As part of the effort to cultivate human experience as a core value, every individual in the company should be able to see, hear, and feel the customers’ experience—not just a select few whose “job” it is.

Finally, companies must ask themselves if they have the right leaders for this time. Does the CEO grasp where to prioritize investments to drive the experiences customers are demanding? Do executives across the C-suite have the right levels of empathy, authenticity, and emotional intelligence? In today’s world, leaders must make decisions with their hearts as much as their heads. “Soft skills” are the new hard skills.

2. Focus on human experience as much as data.

Understanding customers on a deeper level—who they are, what their lives are like, and what their motivations are for using a product or service—has become harder as customer experiences have become less human and more digital. Companies are trying to build deep connections with perhaps millions of people they may never actually see.

As a result, most businesses have turned to collecting and analyzing data—clicks, sales conversion statistics, email response rates, survey responses, etc.—to try to glean customer insights.

But while quantitative methods can help uncover trends and patterns, (for example, that 65 percent of web page visitors are leaving without going beyond the home page) they tell only half the story: Data can provide the “what” behind customer behavior but not the “why.” It is devoid of color and context—the many nuances around customer experience that can come only from observing and interacting with customers first-hand.

Interaction with real customers must be combined with companies’ data-centric processes to inform every aspect of product design, creation, and support.

3. Take advantage of technology.

Technology exists—video, live interviews, and other research studies—to continually see and hear what customers are thinking. Companies should leverage this technology to build a feedback loop that drives the brand forward from the customer’s viewpoint—a virtuous circle in which one desirable outcome from human insights leads to another and drives continuous improvement.

In a product or app launch, for example, this can include live customer interviews before design starts, quick validation of prototypes and sketches, continuous verification during development to validate decisions and reveal problem areas, and post-launch gathering of insights to reveal any issues that weren’t found earlier.

By following these three steps, businesses can make customer empathy part of their brand’s lifeblood. In these times, there may be no greater differentiator.

By : usertesting

Source: Why every business leader should make an empathy plan for 2022

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Compare: Roebuck, Chris (2011-12-22). “Critical need for Entrepreneurial Leaders during turbulent times“ENTREPRENEURIAL LEADERSHIP. Leading Innovation, Leading Change, Pursuing Opportunities – a New Managerial Task in the New Economy

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“Archived copy”. Archived from the originalLeitch, Claire M.; Harrison, Richard T. (2018-01-26).

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Guo, Xuezhi (2019). “Traditional Political Thought and Imperial Legacy”. The Politics of the Core Leader in China: Culture, Institution, Legitimacy, and PowerMarstiller, James K.; Joerding Fickeler, Jennifer (2005).

The Power to Innovate: Rewiring the Minds of Individuals and OrganizationsCano, PE, Librado F. (2010).

Transformation Of An Individual Family Community Nation And The WorldSaxena Dr., P.K. (2009).

Principles of Management, A Modern ApproachEvans, Jules (2012-05-04).

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“The contagious leader: Impact of the leader’s mood on the mood of group members, group affective tone, and group processes”Compare: Vasconcelos e Sá, Jorge (2012).

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The 10 Biggest Business Trends For 2021 Everyone Must Be Ready For

While there are many who can’t wait to bid adieu to 2020, there’s no doubt the coronavirus pandemic and the ways businesses had to adjust to ensure their survival changed the trajectory of what 2021 will look like and what businesses should do to get ready for the upcoming year. As a futurist, I help companies understand the latest trends and technologies and offer guidance on how to prepare their businesses for them. Here are the top 10 trends that will drive every business in 2021. I believe every business around the world needs to be ready for these trends.

Work from Home. . .For Real!

When employees were under lockdown orders due to COVID, companies had to quickly adapt operations to a remote workforce. Now that there are some distance and lessons learned from that initial experiment, most businesses are now rethinking their entire business model. Are offices still needed? Some companies experienced an increase in productivity when their workforce went remote.

However, working from home wasn’t ideal for others. Therefore in 2021, businesses need to reimagine their own workspaces as well as provide the proper support for people working from home, such as outfit them with the right office equipment, mental health support, and more so everyone can work from home comfortably.

Data as an Asset

Over the last few years, data volumes have grown massively. The businesses that leveraged this data to better understand their customers and to improve their decision-making are clearly the ones that are outperforming everyone else. Cloud solutions allow us to access data from anywhere. Businesses need to protect and secure data just as they would any other asset.

Another important thing for businesses to consider is how to boost data literacy in their company in 2021 in order to glean decision-making insights from it. This also requires an investment in systems that can efficiently and effectively process, analyze, and store the data streaming into the organization.

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Business Model Innovation

In 2021, every business leader needs to reflect on what they’re offering customers and how they operate as a business. There were lots of industries that were completely transformed in 2020, such as the hospitality and events industry. The businesses that are currently thriving even during a pandemic are those that reacted quickly to the changes. For example, restaurants that pivoted to enable expanded take-out abilities or Formula 1 companies that were producing ventilators altered their typical operations to ensure survival. Although businesses have always had to think about how the market is shifting and what transformations that means for business, it will be more important in 2021 to innovate your business model.

Automation

Another top business trend in 2021 will be automation. Businesses will evaluate their business processes to see where they can take people out of the process when they aren’t adding any true value. There have already been quite a few shifts in this direction from warehouses, supply chains, autonomous vehicles, trucks, and ships, as well as chatbots that automatically take over customer service inquiries. In 2021, I expect that white-collar automation will be a trend as we consider what bits of a lawyer, doctor, or other white-collar professional’s jobs can be given over to computers and smart robots and delivered through automated interfaces.

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Decentralized Finance

As a result of the economic turmoil COVID-19 left in its path, capital markets continue to be nervous. This creates a challenge for businesses that want to raise capital to expand or start a new business. One solution for raising capital has been crowdfunding, blockchain technology, and other decentralized finance options. This will be a big trend in 2021 that will allow businesses to acquire capital easier than through traditional channels. 

Virtual Interfaces

As companies raced to find new ways of delivering service to customers that were not walking into stores, they began to consider how to deliver some of the services in digital forms using technology such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality. To comply with stay-at-home orders, people would use virtual avatars to “try” on make-up, eyewear, and clothes. Ultimately, this “try before you buy” with virtual interfaces will transform how businesses offer their services.

Going from Global to Local

In 2020 there were a lot of reasons to begin to think more locally rather than globally—COVID-10 disrupted international supply chains, there were increasing tensions between the U.S. and China, and Brexit was delivered. Companies began to rethink where they were sourcing and selling their goods because international turmoil could disrupt business. More localized manufacturing and selling are also appealing for environmental awareness.

Purposeful & Meaningful

There’s a trend to have more purpose and meaning in our jobs. Younger generations that are entering the workforce want to connect with a purpose or work for a company that has real meaning. Companies that don’t have a clear or meaningful purpose will struggle to attract talent and customers.

Sustainability

Sustainability has been a concern for some time, but during the pandemic, things shifted in emphasis. As disruptive as the coronavirus was to business, companies are recognizing the environmental crisis could be much more damaging to the world as well as the bottom line than the pandemic. Therefore, every company needs to rethink operations, environmental impact, and their products and how they are being used. This trend of sustainability links closely to the previous trend of a meaningful purpose as companies work to reduce their carbon and water footprint.

Social Engagement

During the pandemic, brands relied on engaging with their customers and potential customers across social media. In 2021, there will be a big push toward a more authentic presence on social media and one that’s less curated by social media experts, such as real behind-the-scenes looks at a company. Along with this will be engaging influencers and micro-influencers in your industry—those key people who are driving conversations and engage with your customers.

If you would like to learn more about technology trends, then have a look at my new books: Tech Trends in Practice: The 25 Technologies That Are Driving The 4th Industrial Revolution and The Intelligence Revolution: Transforming Your Business With AI. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Bernard Marr

 Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organisations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchains, and the Internet of Things. Why don’t you connect with Bernard on Twitter (@bernardmarr), LinkedIn (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/bernardmarr) or instagram (bernard.marr)?

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