Recap: Empathy as a Competitive Advantage for Corporate Growth, featuring Martha Pease

October 21st, 2015

by Marjorie Steele

Last week, corporate consultant and CEO of DEMANDWERKS Martha Pease shared with audiences her tools for leveraging empathy to boost bottom lines with the AMA and ACG West Michigan. In our first event partnership, both our local AMA and ACG chapters brought attendees to a new venue: New Vintage Place, on the West Side.

As an experienced consultant who’s worked with many Fortune 500 companies, Martha outlined some of her insights and strategies for leveraging customer empathy to quantitatively impact return on investment.

As technologies move us toward less and less customer interaction, Martha pointed out, consumer demand is moving towards more hands-on customer service. This presents companies with a challenge to develop a company culture that can meet that demand, or become less and less relevant.

She cited a Forrester study which found that publicly traded companies that were leaders in customer experience averaged an above average gain in their stock values, while those that lagged in customer experience were in the red.

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The problem is that most companies have siloed their empathy for customers into sales, marketing, communication and customer service departments, removing it from product development and business operations. In this linear, segregated structure, innovation stalls.

To begin to incorporate empathy into every area of business, companies must begin to “think round” in the way the organization runs. Each part of operations, from ideation to execution, needs to connect with the others in a circle of discovery and innovation.

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As a real life example, Martha talked about the process she went through with a large pizza delivery franchise which was facing declining sales. To understand their customers’ experience, they mapped out customers’ needs and corresponding emotional journey through the buying cycle, from disinterest, to interest, purchase, and delivery.

The discovery found that different stages of customers’ journeys included emotions like stress, desire for control and choice, anxiety, and either relief or anger. The delivery franchise could then identify changes that could be made at each stage in the buying cycle to help drive these emotions to be positive.

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Once you orient every part of the business in a holistic understanding of how customers empathize, Martha pointed out, everyone in the business, including engineers and IT staff, can contribute to the company’s profits – because they understand what impacts the bottom line.

Culture is, of course, a key to successfully integrating empathy into a company’s DNA. The businesses that tend to flourish, she said, tend to have culture-rich environments.

The process of becoming empathetic begins internally, by helping every person in the organization understand: what the company does, how it makes a profit, and its unique value proposition. Unless everyone understands these, it’s difficult for a company to empathize with its customers.

That’s the end of the recap! Our thanks again to Martha Pease for sharing her experience with us, and to ACG West Michigan for helping us make this another successful luncheon!

Until November…