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Want More Effective Messaging? Get Your Empathy On.

Posted on: February 20th, 2020 by David Cooper

About the Author

david-cooper-photo.jpgDavid Cooper, CEO and Principal Strategist
The Cooper Group

Founded in 1998, The Cooper Group is the Atlanta-based management and marketing consulting firm providing distinct expertise and solutions to help organizations navigate through turbulence to sustained growth and profits. 

If you can’t stand in your customer’s shoes, you’ll never be up to the task of delivering stellar customer experience throughout their buying journey and beyond. Post 5 in our 7 Steps to CX Nirvana is all about the most important CX factor of all — empathy. 

“I get worried if I see customer satisfaction scores drop below 97%.” That’s a direct quote from Ali Ryal, Head of Customer Experience for Slack, the popular collaboration tool for teams. According to the company, their average response time is under an hour. And here’s one more nugget of CX goodness to savor: “We’re trying to build empathy at scale.”

Slack is one of the best examples I can think of for a company that gets it. By “it,” I mean building your brand around outstanding, empathetic customer experience everywhere. While plenty of organizations implement CX tweaks, these are often add-ons, rather than core values and differentiators.

So, ask yourself this question: Does your organization get it? And how well are you communicating empathy in all your messaging?

Empathy starts with a story

When I say that empathy begins with a story, I’m not talking about your brand story. I’m referring to your customer’s story. As Donald Miller explained so succinctly in "Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Your Customers Will Listen," they’re more concerned with themselves than with you. And if you want to win them over, you have to prove it by reflecting their journey in every single communication and interaction.

But be careful. Your product is not the star of the story, and neither are you. Customers are the heroes of their stories, and you are the guide who helps them solve a problem, overcome an obstacle, and achieve transformation. You’re the Yoda to their Luke Skywalker.

And then what? Empathy everywhere.

So, how do you make your messaging relevant, timely, and emotionally resonant at every touch point? Whether it’s on a support call, in an email sequence, a Facebook ad, your homepage, or a brochure, talk less about the awesomeness of your features and more about the role those features play in helping your customers overcome their most pressing challenges.

Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m no copywriter. But here’s a quick and dirty example of two statements that illustrate my point:

Choice A

Our award-winning HR software platform is the leading solution for today’s busy medical practices.

Choice B

Pulling your hair out over endless HR regulations? Our cloud-based software automates compliance,
so you spend less time on paperwork and more time with your patients.

Choice B communicates understanding, solution, and transformation. All your messaging should reflect this central, unifying theme. It isn’t that you never talk about yourself and your product or service. Of course you do. 

But your product or service exists for one reason: to improve your customers’ lives and businesses. They’re not particularly interested in your agendas and initiatives. So when you talk about yourself, the message should always be filtered through their story.

Empathetic customer service

Customer experience is everyone’s job, but your support team will usually have the most direct contact with those who purchase your product or service. So it’s crucial that they nail the correct tone and word choice. Employing true empathy here can mean the difference between a glowing Yelp review that brings you 100 new customers over the next year, or a Facebook rant that goes viral, with the opposite effect.

Using statements like “I would probably feel the same way if I were in your shoes” and “I want to assure you that I’m going to take care of this problem for you today” conveys both empathy and responsiveness. You can also summarize and rephrase the customer’s concern, using emotional mirroring to make them feel they’ve been heard and understood. 

But don’t stop there. Instead, experiment and innovate. The video hosting service Wistia’s practice of creating personalized videos to solve support questions resulted in a “98% Happiness rating." Sure, they could have taken the traditional route and stuck to phone calls, chat, or email. But by personalizing and showing their customers how to solve problems, rather than simply sending them canned responses, they lead the industry in stellar customer experience. 

Consistency is the challenge

One of the most daunting challenges is unifying your messaging across all channels. It must be cohesive, strategic, and present everywhere your customers encounter you. I understand. It’s easier said than done. But until you tackle the issue and revamp your communications for consistency, you’ll continue struggling to build and maintain the relationships that make your business thrive. 

The bottom line: Empathy always wins

What would it look like for your organization to commit to “empathy at scale”? Do you think your customers would notice? I do. How you implement and execute depends on your target customer, your industry, and each individual touch point. But make no mistake. Committing to empathy in all your communication is a requirement in 2020, not an extra, or a “nice-to-have.”

In the simplest terms, they must know that you get them, you care, and you’re prepared to help — and keep on helping, long after the initial purchase.


Get more of David's insights into providing stellar customer experiences...

Connect with Your Customers Wherever (and Whenever) They Are

Do You Know Your Brand’s True Value? Your Customer Does.

Are You Beating Your Competitors at Customer Experience?

How to Become a Customer-Obsessed Organization

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