How to Operationalize Empathy: 3 Things to Do Today

We’re living in the most customer-centric era yet, and now we’re all facing the new challenge of an ongoing pandemic. Many consumers and small businesses are falling behind on mortgage payments or seeking forbearance.

Even the customers or members who seem to be doing OK are likely only 1 degree away from a loved one who is struggling to make ends meet in the midst of this economic and global health crisis. A pre-pandemic poll found that 85% of Americans feel stressed out about money, and it’s likely that this number increased with the unemployment rate.

To ensure you’re providing humanized support that meets your customers or members where they are, you need to operationalize empathy within your customer or member experience at scale. Here are 3 steps you can take to ensure that empathy is part of your playbook.

Revisit Your Personas

You can’t assess your customer or member journey without first revisiting your personas. Having defined customer or member personas will help you:

  • Understand your customers’ or members’ needs in the context of what they’re going through.
  • Get the right tone and the right message for the moment they’re in.

This exercise is also an opportunity to revisit your assumptions about the goals, challenges, and needs of each persona, and keep in mind that your personas may need adjusting.

Whether someone’s child is headed to school for the first time in the fall, they’re considering buying another home, or they’re approaching retirement, their list of financial considerations and risk tolerance has likely changed. These kinds of landmark events are now even more stressful than they were 4 months ago, and the messaging around these changes should reflect these differences.

You must also ensure your personas take into account those who are struggling. For example, if a customer or member’s direct deposits stopped 3 months ago, that person may be better suited to a new persona – one that is aligned with a journey aimed at financial relief and/or recovery. Considerations like these will help you deliver the right products and services based on individual financial needs.

Audit Your Journeys

We always advocate “taking a test drive” of your customer or member experience (the same way secret shoppers do). It’s critical to do a fresh audit today in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In order to fine-tune language that’s sensitive to the real opportunities and limits of today’s economy, revisit your customer or member journeys with a careful eye. Email communication touchpoints that used to seem straightforward may now require a second look. For example, offering someone a refinance opportunity on their mortgage via email may not be appropriate if their mortgage is currently in forbearance.

This journey audit will help you deliver empathic communications and ensure that empathy is being exuded across all departments and touchpoints.

Identify and Fill in the Gaps

In order to effectively provide your customers or members with the information and education they need, you need to use everything you know about your customers or members to deliver the experience they’ve come to expect: seamless and reliable.

With fresh eyes and a focus on empathy, revisit the map you’ve drawn for your customers or members. Are there any places where there are new opportunities to adjust this road map / add new pathways to help:  

Look for opportunities to use the customer or member data you’re already collecting to ensure they’re getting the right message in the right place at the right time. 

Continually Assess and Adapt 

The current moment presents a tremendous responsibility and a tremendous opportunity for financial brands to demonstrate that they care about the future of their customers or members.
Now is the time to demonstrate that your financial brand truly puts its customers’ or members’ financial wellness at the center of every experience. To hear more about how to build empathy into your company’s operations, listen to the full podcast with Total Expert Founder & CEO Joe Welu and Chief Customer Officer Sue Woodard.