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Last week I had the honor and pleasure of guest teaching at USC’s consumer psychology graduate program, and I’m pretty sure the students had as much fun as I did teaching as they did learning and being entertained. And I’m happy to report that the students were not only sharp, but they were also fascinated by customer experience. Not so much the idea of CX, but how it’s taken a business discipline such as CX to help companies purposely design experiences. In other words, they were a little surprised that CX isn’t a standard practice, and I couldn’t agree more!

They are growing up to expect that their favorite brands will take time to understand them, all the way from their unexpressed hidden desires to the way in which they as customers want to communicate. And they as consumers shouldn’t have to explicitly say that – it’s assumed their favorite brands will just know them. Know how to chat, use emoticons, and predict needs.

As anticipated, the younger generation, and many consumers for that matter, are constantly increasing expectations. With the rise of Amazon’s Mayday, instant rides from Lyft and Uber, to the endless flow of updates from news outlets, Facebook, and Twitter overflows our mental capacity to absorb information. Our persistent data snacking has stimulated our minds so much that we subconsciously hunt for the next hit (the number of likes from our Facebook status update, affirmation from our boss, acknowledgement from our favorite brand that a problem is being fixed, or notification from Amazon that the book you ordered during lunch has already shipped).

A student asked, “What is a key driving factor for doing CX well?” Great question.

My answer: Compassion.
It is rare for us let alone companies to actively engage with intention. To actively sit and feel what it is like to be our spouses, our friends, our children, parents, neighbors, and specifically customers. Truly understanding what their values are and each of the emotions that they feel. So I argue the most powerful business strategy that can elevate a company’s CX is without a doubt compassion. Which is proactive-intentional-empathy with our customers.

Sounds simple enough, then why don’t more companies do this? Well a few are, but it’s slow to catch on, plus it’s not easy for executives to get behind until they can see the results, and sometimes that means turning the mirror inward.

Truly imagining what it is like to be another person, and keep practicing it means that we can no longer blame them as we being to empathize with their situation. We can no longer make them wrong in our heads and we stop being upset at them. We can then see ourselves in their shoes and can understand how maybe we could have made same mistake or come to the same conclusion. When we imagine what it’s like to be another person for too long it threatens our ego a bit.

But if we can get over our selfish ego side we can dive deeper into compassion for our customers and start to feel the same feelings as they feel will we be on the road to creating differentiated customer experiences. Until then we’re unplugged from doing so.

I believe that if we truly carve out the time to empathize with intention that we can help massive amounts of people, and even make a little money as a result.

Where can we remove friction from their journey? What is our customer’s reality… where is their pain coming from and what frustrates them? What is it that THEY think they need to relieve their pain and frustration, not what we interpret it to be with our own biases.

Or as Clayton Christensen puts it, what are the customers’ jobs? Where can we save them time and make a process easier?

What monsters are our customers trying to avoid and what treasures are they trying to get?

What are our customers not sharing with us on surveys… what are they secretly not telling anyone? Too many times surveys only capture the extremes: “You guys are awesome – keep it up!” or “Horrible experience!” As CX professionals I think it is our job to do our best to try to answer the questions above. Furthermore, I’d even argue that it is within any businesses best interest to understand their customers’ desires because most businesses fail because they choose not to invest in understanding their changing desires.

I’ll leave with a quote from fellow CX practitioner, Brian Solis:

One of the biggest problems with CX today is that it’s too closely tied to legacy philosophies, processes, and systems, which were crafted for a different time for a different type of customer. Without understanding customers and how behaviors and values are changing, without aligning our teams around a bigger and bolder vision of what we want to offer – something that is going to truly matter to people – we are just managing the business the way we always have… and for some that means scraping by until disruption.