The Power of Empathy in the Pursuit of Customer Salience

Dr Matthew Farmer

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Paul Hudson

    The Power of Empathy in the Pursuit of Customer Salience

    In today’s competitive marketplace, having a holistic understanding of customers’ desires, motivations, and experiences is key for informing more impactful business decisions. Empathy, the ability to ‘put yourself in someone else’s shoes’ and understand their experiences from their own perspective, is key to unlocking deeper insights in market research and building cultures of customer salience within businesses. Since customer salience is all about building a culture in which stakeholder teams across a business think about customers at the point of decision-making, it is key that we as insight teams use empathy throughout our research processes to ensure that stakeholders are thinking about their customers in meaningful, accurate, and holistic ways.

    To best increase the chances of Customer Salience success, here are a few ways of incorporating empathy in your research methodologies and how to use empathy to maximise the impact of your insights when communicating with stakeholders. By maintaining a focus on how to incorporate empathy throughout the research process, you’ll create more opportunities to prove the value of insight teams and help stakeholders build a culture of customer salience within the business.

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    Which is the most crucial soft skill for implementing successful market research experiences and embuing Customer Salience into stakeholder businesses? Empathy.

    Generating Insights with Empathy

    Empathy is an essential skill for researchers to have. It allows researchers to better connect with participants by considering their experiences and perspectives to ensure that research methodologies are both engaging and accessible to them. It also allows researchers to build trust and rapport with participants, resulting in the generation of deeper and more impactful insights. But empathy can also be employed when including stakeholders in the research process, creating opportunities to build closer stakeholder-researcher relationships and prove the value of insight teams.

    Making sure that the design processes of your methodologies are more transparent to stakeholders is important for building stakeholder trust and strengthening the relationship between insight teams and stakeholders. Including empathy in your communications with stakeholders at the stage of research design means being a champion for the experience of participants as the subjects of research, explaining to stakeholders why a particular methodology is valuable to delivering on their objectives. Similarly, using empathy also means being a champion for stakeholders, demonstrating to stakeholders that you understand why their objectives are important to them. Successfully being a champion for both participants and stakeholders allows you to demonstrate your value to stakeholders

    Connecting stakeholders to insight generation and closely working with insights teams brings them closer to their customers, allowing stakeholders to build confidence in insight generation and see greater value in their insight teams. Creating more routine connections between insight teams and stakeholders opens up opportunities for strengthening those relationships, building trust, and positioning insight teams as collaborators and consultants for stakeholders, rather than just the people who “do research and tell you about it”.

    As insight teams, we can also employ empathy when engaging with stakeholders throughout the design and fieldwork stages of conducting research. Having empathy for other demands and challenges that stakeholders might be facing means accepting that stakeholders might not always be able to fully engage with the research process. By keeping stakeholders updated and offering opportunities to connect, when possible, stakeholders will see you more as a valuable collaborator, rather than the pesky researcher who isn’t respecting their time.

    Invite stakeholders to opportunities to participate in “doing” research to help make them feel part of the processes for generating insights. Creating opportunities for stakeholders to care about these processes allows them to be closer to their customers and build more emotional connections to customer experiences. Building a routine of stakeholders engaging with insights, with empathy, helps to build the customer into stakeholders’ decision-making routines, thereby building a culture of customer salience that is based on an understanding of customer experiences that has been driven by empathetic insight generation.

    Communicating Customer Experiences

    As insight teams, we need to ensure that we’re communicating insights effectively to stakeholders, presenting customer data and experiences in impactful ways that allow stakeholders to truly understand their customers. Weaving empathy into the delivery of our insights stories allows opportunities for the creation of deeper, more emotional connections between stakeholders and their customers. In doing so, we’re increasing the likelihood that stakeholders keep their customers’ experiences front-of-mind, in turn contributing to building a culture of customer salience in which stakeholders think of their customers at key points of decision-making for their business.

    An initial challenge of insight teams is recognising that stakeholders aren’t necessarily like their customers (in the same way that researchers aren’t necessarily like the average customer either). Reflecting on the relationship between stakeholders and their customers with empathy can help to bridge the gap between stakeholders’ experiences and their customers’ experiences.

    Take the time to understand your stakeholders’ experiences, as well as what it is about the research and its objectives that stakeholders care about and motivate them to acquire these insights. This way, we can ensure that when we’re communicating customers’ experiences to stakeholders, we’re framing our storytelling in a way that stakeholders will actively listen and remember these experiences.

    It's also worth remembering that stakeholders might not have the time to fully digest the wealth of insights that you’ve generated from a piece of research. This presents a challenge to insight teams to communicate insights in impactful, actionable ways, whilst sharing customers’ experiences in ways that build emotional connections. Video is a fantastic tool for this.

    Visually stimulating and allowing opportunity for stakeholders to hear customer experiences from customers themselves, video can be an excellent reporting tool for generating stakeholder empathy and creating a lasting, impactful impression when delivering insights. Giving a face to the customer, as well as a voice, means that customers are more likely to occupy the precious real estate in a stakeholder’s mind – it’s going to be more effective for the stakeholder to think of “John” or “Aisha” or “Chris” when making business decisions, ideally with empathy, than just names on paper or an amalgamation of statistics.

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    As the link between businesses and Customer Salience, insight experts must champion the inclusion of empathy in both research and stakeholder decision-making processes. 

    Empathy and the Value of Insight Teams

    Building a culture of customer salience within a business requires rethinking existing methodologies and assumed ways of working that deserve to be challenged in our industry. Championing the inclusion of empathy at the different steps of the research process, from designing methodologies to delivering insights to stakeholders, makes the journey to customer salience more effective, whilst highlighting the key role that insight teams play in bridging the gap between customer experience and stakeholder experience.

    Insight teams are the glue that binds together the value of an empathetic understanding of customer experiences and the value of customer salience for effective stakeholder decision-making. Incorporating empathy into our research processes and relationships with both customers and stakeholders strengthens the ability of insight teams to demonstrate their value as collaborators and consultants, champions of both customers and stakeholders in the pursuit of impactful, effective decision-making across all areas of a business.

    Insights Empowerment

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