When we talk about the customer experience, it’s all too easy to think in terms of data and figures. Is engagement growing? How many users are there? Are we getting net positive reviews?

It may seem an obvious point to make, but it’s vital that we don’t lose touch of the human element of the modern customer experience. To truly understand the customer, you should go far beyond purchase history and preferred product features. Instead, think about the customers’ goals and interests, what they care about, and the issues that they are looking to solve with their purchases.

By doing this, you’re not only going to set a foundation to build a relationship with your customers, you also will be able to build a much more helpful picture of them to drive further relevant interactions over time.

Empathy is a crucial piece for improving your brand’s connection with customers. But what does being empathetic in the context of a customer-business relationship really mean? And how can you foster genuine empathy within your organization?

Building understanding

For starters, empathy begins with understanding the needs of the customer on an individual level. This means looking to your data to gauge what content your customer is interacting with and pain points they are looking to solve on their customer journey.

To get this single 360-degree view of a customer, you’ll want to employ a Customer Data Platform (CDP). This will offer a unified customer database that empowers you to remove the obstacles to genuine engagement.

A CDP will help you reveal where obstacles are within a customer journey, so you can adjust content at the point in which a customer may drop out of a journey. A CDP is a powerful tool to keep you informed on the content you need to deliver to help customers through their journey, but it will be up to your organization to interpret the “human element” that underlies this data.

Humans, not just customers 

It’s easy to tell when a business doesn’t know enough about you as a consumer. Every interaction is transactional, and you don’t feel a connection beyond your purchase with the organization. We’ve all experienced this at one point or another.

Businesses that have done the work to deliver you relevant, timely, and personalized content before and after your interactions with them will earn the front-of-mind spot in the future. These businesses really understand the importance of empathy.

An effective customer journey is one that nurtures a customer relationship, and gently guides the them to realize the right solution to their own needs, ultimately with the goal that they conclude it is your product or service that is best suited to them.

In the end, you still want to close the sale, and your customers understand this, but helping them see the transaction as something happening on their terms or to serve their needs is likely to result in a better overall experience. People want to feel confident in their decisions.

It is those businesses with a real understanding of you as a human, not just a set of data points, that are getting this right more often.

Understanding in action

When it comes to making a big, life-changing decision like buying a home, knowing the organization you’re working with has your interests at heart really matters.

For example, a homebuyer (after exploring their local market) may use a bank’s mortgage calculator tool to explore their financing options. If this bank can capture this data (via a sign-in form, for example), they can begin to build a data profile around this homebuyer.

Every time the buyer then interacts with the bank or linked services, they’ll be building out this profile within a CDP. Sales teams and marketers at the bank can utilize this data to provide links to helpful relevant content or offer up beneficial products that the buyer might not have considered or even known about.

Along this journey, a truly empathetic organization will do all it can to not waste the customer’s time by asking them to resupply their information or by bombarding them with irrelevant content. They’ll be using a combination of hard data and human understanding to offer up a seamless, friction-free journey.

Finally, once the homebuyer has reached the point of purchase, they will likely take out their mortgage with the bank that has offered them the best customer experience, providing useful information, products they need, and at attractive prices. And the bank will be rewarded with loyalty and advocacy for that.

Manage the lows as well as celebrating the highs

With a CDP and plenty of data flowing in, you can better manage both the highs and lows of a customer journey.

Of course, you want to celebrate when things are working well – for example, delivering loyalty based promotions – but you should also anticipate that sometimes things just won’t work out as you plan.

There will always be low points in a customer journey — those moments where your customers stumble, doubt themselves, or consider looking elsewhere. These usually occur at points of friction not yet ironed out. But you can’t iron them out without knowing where they are.

To find this out, take another look at the data, and compare it to similar customer journeys. Are all customer segments struggling at the same point of the journey? Is content up-to-date and available?

The data within your CDP enables you to gauge changing customer perceptions over their journey and uncover ways to eliminate friction and continue fostering trust in your brand.

Be sure to ask your customers for their honest feedback, as well, either through formal surveys or something as simple as a social post. This is a great way of showing that you care and gathering more invaluable data to improve the customer journey.

Technology to help your business be more human

Truly empathetic businesses are those that will be rewarded with greater customer loyalty and advocacy because they make it easy for customers to achieve their goals – no matter how big or small.

They build a customer journey that works for individuals, not just customer segments, by using comprehensive data and an understanding of the “human element” that plays such a large part in decision making.

Sitecore’s market-leading CDP and expert support could help you reach this desirable state. To get started, read more about the lightning-fast capabilities of Sitecore CDP or visit the Knowledge Center.

Jill Grozalsky Roberson is the Product Marketing Director at Sitecore. Connect with her on LinkedIn.