8 Steps for Building a Culture of Data-Driven Empathy

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8 Steps for Building a Culture of Data-Driven Empathy

By Brian Solis

Being a customer-centric organization means more than just acting on the right data. It means acting with data-driven empathy.

Data-driven empathy is about humanizing data: bringing personal insights to life in a way that allows you to know your customer beyond the incomplete information that populates traditional systems of records. It’s about the intent to seek these insights, aligning systems, operational models, and processes focused on unifying and analyzing customer data so that it’s insightful, actionable, and personal.

Data-driven empathy makes businesses purposeful and relatable, so they can respond in the best interests of customers and adapt to constantly evolving needs in real time—all integral pillars of a customer-centric organization. This involves embedding data into the identity of your organization as the catalyst for transforming how you serve your customers.

“Being customer-centric is not about a point in time or selling one product,” says Rob Goodman, Vice President and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Program Owner at Pacific Life Insurance Co. “It spans all of a person’s life events. Regardless of where someone comes in to us as a customer, we need to anticipate those events before they even ask.”

Companies like Pacific Life are learning that data-driven empathy isn’t just about having the right data. It requires a data architecture that enables a single unified view of the customer, allowing cross-functional teams access to the information they need in order to deliver value-added customer experiences. And it requires an organizational culture that prioritizes and organizes data proficiency in the pursuit of customer success.

Eight steps can help your organization build a culture of data-driven empathy and maturing capabilities over time.

  1. Listen to your customers. Embed customer listening into your business to collect feedback from customers at every stage of their journey with your brand, establishing a baseline for quality based on your business goals and your customers’ expectations, and acting on those insights cross-functionally. This is what’s known as a voice-of-the-customer function.
  2. Establish the standard for end-to-end customer experience (CX). What would your customers say about their experiences in a Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction score, or Customer Lifetime Value score survey? Does this feedback meet your standards, or your customers’ standards? “Customers are basing their expectations off of other companies in other industries, not just yours,” Goodman says. “You can’t settle for just good enough.”
  3. Define a framework to translate data into actionable insights that fuel customer success. Delivering unified customer experiences takes a comprehensive data This requires businesses to establish a social contract with customers in a way that encourages the exchange of data for value-added experiences. To continually earn customer data and build trust means applying insights that keep connecting, improving, and personalizing their experiences. The process of harnessing and organizing around data, extracting meaningful insights, and putting insights into action to deliver useful, usable, and enjoyable experiences creates a data flywheel that keeps spinning and enhancing customer experiences.
    • Unify customer data sources into a holistic view of customer interactions and outcomes
    • Establish an upgraded data program that connects new or missing data points to a unified data platform for a single and complete view of the customer
    • Surface relevant and timely insights that inform action across teams and functions
    • Deliver personalized customer experiences at scale
  1. Connect all the dots with technology. Invest in intelligent, automated, and integrated technology systems that connect data into a single unified view and help your employees be more productive in their work. “Our goal was to operate as one company with shared visibility into every relationship and touchpoint,” Goodman says. “We needed to organize customer data across the company into a single unique ID for every customer, so our marketing, sales, and service teams have one view of the customer and all their information.”
  2. Create a CX leadership committee, accountable for data-driven empathy. Include stakeholders across the business and analytics functions. A chief customer or experience officer can lead this group, focusing on implementing CX across your organization. In fact, companies leading in CX are more than twice as likely to have a chief experience officer driving their CX efforts than companies that have made less progress, according to a recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey. Pacific Life recently introduced this position, Goodman says: “The identification of this role recognized the need to assess the voice of the customer holistically across every touchpoint, versus siloed in one area.”
  3. Decide what’s essential. Assess and prioritize the highest-value and most critical customer touchpoints to prioritize for digital empathy transformation. Which customer touchpoints cause the most pain and have the greatest impact on the business? Organize relevant data sources into a single source of customer truth, so every team can address critical decision points.
  4. Give every employee CX skills. Establish employee training programs on CX success and data proficiency. Ensure unified access to relevant data sources and dashboards, and continually emphasize the value of data-driven empathy by supporting it with a Center of Excellence
  5. And give every employee autonomy. Prioritize collaboration in department-level goals and initiatives, empowering individuals at every level of the organization to own decisions in their purview and take actions based on data.

Gaining a 360-degree view of customers is just the beginning. Data-driven empathy elevates the human side of data and reveals the opportunities to engage customers in ways that are more relevant, personal, useful, and even enchanting.

To learn more on how to unlock, understand, and act on your data, check out the Data Strategy Playbook.

Brian Solis is Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. He’s also a world-renowned digital anthropologist, keynote speaker, and eight-time best-selling author.

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