Operationalizing empathy for a better customer experience

by Kasi Johnston12 Aug 2020

Millions of Americans remain in limbo, as policymakers in Washington are yet to sign off on a new stimulus package after the last one expired in July. The first stimulus checks authorized under the CARES Act went out to over 160 million Americans, who received an additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits. While signs point to more assistance coming down the pipeline, the uncertainty has Americans stressed about their finances, and looking for empathy from their financial institutions.

In his podcast Expert Insights, Total Expert CEO and founder Joe Welu discussed how COVID-19 and other current events have made it more important than ever to understand the position of customers, as no one has gone unaffected. He says we are living in the most customer-centric era, and the margin for error in communicating to a customer and not meeting them where they are is slim.

“Even with things seemingly bouncing back in the right direction, there’s still a lot of pain out in the market and the economy right now,” said Welu.

Operationalizing empathy

Operationalizing empathy is really about understanding clients and sharing in their feelings as part of your playbook moving forward. A key to this is developing customer personas, according to Welu. A persona in marketing is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. It boils down to understanding your client, what is important to them and where they are in life, then speaking to them with that knowledge.

“If you don’t have personas, you can’t have empathy,” he said.

In the mortgage industry, brokers and lenders are required to learn so much about a borrower’s life and their money. That includes any major events, whether they are starting a business, stressed about retirement, or having their kids going off the college. In the past, Welu says financial institutions have made the mistake of thinking that sending a birthday card equates being empathetic, but he encourages brokers and other mortgage companies to go a step further and use the technology and information at our fingertips to build more understanding into mortgage processes.

“It’s a beautiful thing all the data you can amass,” said Welu. “It’s the perfect time in the innovation cycle to start making progress on being able to truly operationalize empathy and do it at scale.”

At any point of customer engagement, no matter the medium, he says that communication should be accurate, in the right context, and with empathy and understanding of how that message and information will make the borrower feel. Mapping out the customer experience is a critical part of understanding this and what you can do about it, he added.

“There are meaningful ways of measuring that, whether it’s through surveys or other feedback. From there, brokers can adjust. It’s a series of incremental improvements to really operationalize empathy in your company.”

Operationalizing empathy will result in growth in profitability and efficiency, but most importantly, it’s about helping customers make better financial decisions in a more productive way.

“It’s ultimately going to improve your loyalty; it's good for the organization and it's good for the customer, so it's a huge win-win.”