Adapt to Grow

Adapt to Grow: Rethink the Customer Journey Using Empathy

On May 11, 2021 Adapt to Grow hosted a panel with experts in customer relationships. With a focus on connecting empathetically,  the event highlighted how we can better connect with the “invisible” online customer and your team.

Empathy, or actively seeking to understand how others are feeling and taking action on it, is essential in progressing as an organisation – especially now. The world changes so fast and customer attitudes change with it. So it’s up to us to actively listen and engage so we don’t fall out of touch, even when we can’t physically touch. 

I still look back on the days when I shook hands with customers and had the ability to show I cared through all the nuances that come with face-to-face interactions. Now, it’s a challenge to build trust on the other side of a screen, for the purposes of marketing and leading your team. How do we ensure we’re transitioning to the “new normal” while being cognizant of how others are feeling?



How do we “see” the “unseen” customer?

Marketers are all about the customer, and the customer sentiment changes constantly and is nuanced. In this panel, we discussed how it had seemed like we were “all in the same boat” in quarantine. But with things starting to open again, some customers are ready to buy earlier than others.

“The same email list of the same target market may not be feeling the same thing at the same time.”

How do we adapt to this increasing segmentation of our audience? 

  1. Plan – When you’re creating content, you must ask yourself “What can I do differently to empathize with my customer?
  2. Adapt Quickly to Build a New Rhythm – Get ready to edit those marketing calendars based on what you’re noticing is top of mind in the market.
  3. And of course, Take Opportunities to Personalize the Customer experience!

Personalization is a way to show your customers that they’re not just another addition to the bottom line. Mark, one of our participants, gave a fitting example of personalization in a pandemic from the customer perspective.

Mark is a loyal BMW buyer, but when his lease was up, he had to experience buying a car virtually, and BMW delivered.

BMW made it easy to negotiate with a real person through text, and then when he got into the dealership, the staff knew him by name and even introduced him to people he texted.

“It was the best experience I ever had buying a car. It wasn’t ‘personal’ but they made it feel personal.”

That’s what we’re all after: that *feeling* of care, that we’ve been seen, a result of a true empathetic connection. I’ve always said that people may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.

Here are some other actionable ways to connect more authentically with your customers:

1. Speak to Customers Directly as Much as Possible Because There’s Discrepancies in Things Like Surveys

One of our participants, noted that it’s like a game of telephone sometimes to hear the customer’s voice. The customer talks to a poll, the poll is analyzed by a team member, the team member communicates it to a manager and so on. There’s a lot of opportunity for that ESSENTIAL information to get lost in translation!

Integrating one-on-one meetings with customers as much as possible to discuss their feedback in their own words is key. For example, a word like “engaging” can mean many things to different people. Using surveys and polls is a great tool to actively listen to your customers, and the next step in empathizing properly is to take the time to understand the nuances by prioritizing personal conversation. 

"It's important we pivot and adapt our sales and marketing plans with changing customer sentiment."

2. Get Creative About Not Passing the Costs onto the Customer

I think we’ve all experienced that feeling of disappointment when a company you’ve been loyal to increases their prices. Even as business owners who understand how profits work, it can be a hard pill to swallow as a customer living in trying times. Even if upping the price is unavoidable, it’s worth getting creative to figure out how to reduce the costs to the customer.

Tom, a participant who sells supplements, said that the cost of goods and shipping increased significantly with the pandemic, but that they took on the cost instead of passing it onto the customers because it better reflected the values of the company. It’s not a strategy that can work for everyone, but it’s worth reflecting on. 

3. Data Privacy Tightening is an Opportunity to Get More Personal

This past year, we’ve had major developments in data privacy – from Apple’s IOS update to Google doing away with cookies. Some companies are adapting to this by using it as an opportunity to empathize with customers with a more direct business to consumer method: more videos, podcasts, and engaging through and storytelling like never

How do I Better Empathize with My Team as a Leader Entering the New Normal? 

Even if you’re not in a leadership role, continue to reflect on these points because thinking like a leader is a mindset, not a position.

1. Be Flexible in Going Back to Office

Do you feel like your team has spent MORE time talking to each other now that things have gone virtual (now that you aren’t tucked away in cubicles?) 

If you’re like Tom, one of our participants, then you don’t want to lose that as we enter the “new normal,” as some people are going back to the office. Actively listening and engaging with your team on how they feel about going back to the office is essential, because staff can be seen as a conduit for empathy all the way to the customers. 

2. Saying “Thank You” Is Powerful

Our teams have worked so hard to push our businesses forward in unthinkable times. Expressing gratitude for your team, even when it’s something as small as sending “happy birthday” messages can go a long way and make your team feel more empowered to go farther for you.

Also, your team has different insight than you, so it’s important to acknowledge them, so they feel comfortable to share new ideas.

“Because they’ve done so much work to be able to pivot and work remotely while driving business growth, it’s important to stop and say thank you and reward them for that.”

3. Empathy Requires Self Awareness

How much do you truly know about yourself? Does it match what your employees think of you? Do you know what makes you really upset? Do you know what makes you really happy no matter what happens? Do you know your preference in communication?

All these questions are essential first steps when progressing towards being a more empathetic leader.

Once you take the time to know yourself and your team, then you can use that information to empower your team to do things they love to do. 

It can be overwhelming, but ask yourself the hard questions, listen to HEAR them, and you’ll be on a great track to progressing forward as an organization.

“Your small steps of how you show up with whatever that empathy lens is, really makes a difference.”

We are doing a more in-depth workshop on empathy.

Stay tuned for our next blog reflecting on what we learned during the workshop! 


Watch Full Event ⤵️

Join us on our next event

Theme: Problem Solving
How can you anticipate and proactively innovate to solve your customers' pain points?

Sept. 14th, 2021 | 3:00pm - 4:00pm EST


About the Author

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.