Have you ever forgotten a person that has consistently been kind to you and empathetic to your needs?
Probably not! Right?
Empathy plays a very important role in our interpersonal relationships and there is no reason why it won’t work for your transactional relationships. A study by Businessolver states that 90% of employees are more likely to stay with an empathetic employer and 87% of CEOs believe empathy is directly linked to financial performance. The top 10 businesses in the Global Empathy Index generated 50% more revenue than the bottom 10 businesses. A study by Andy Fred Wali and Bright C. Opara found that a customer appreciation strategy influences customer loyalty and advocacy, which in turn led to increased business growth. These statistics are proof that emotion and empathy play a significant role in improving brand value.
The problem arises when brands and marketers either assume that they are empathetic or lack the resources and ideas to incorporate it, in their business ethics.
Empathy is much like a natural instinct, if you are receptive and sensitive towards others’ emotions you will naturally extend this tendency to your business transactions. Dr. Johannes Huttula conducted research with 480 experienced marketing managers, wherein he requested the marketers to step into their customer’s shoes and predict what they would reply in a market test. Surprisingly, the more empathetic the marketers felt, the worse they did on predicting customer preferences and motivations. According to Huttula, the marketers used their own biases and personal preferences, misinterpreting them as empathy, to predict what will appeal to customers.
Making uncalculated presumptions is the wrong way of approaching this. To help you create a more empathetic brand image listed below are some fail-proof strategies.
1. Listen, Observe, Feel – How often do you listen to comprehend and not simply to reply? Listening is often the only thing needed to help someone. Create a rapport with your customers so that they feel comfortable to connect and engage with you. Observing and monitoring your customer’s behavior is another effective way of understanding them. Lastly, it is important to put yourself in your customer’s shoes to better understand how they feel. Only when you successfully comprehend what your customers require, will you be able to empathize with them.
2. Start a Genuine Conversation – It has become a common practice for most brands now, to consistently communicate with their audience without any marketing agenda. Brands like Netflix make it a point to reply to their audience on their social platforms and start fun conversations with them about movies and series. Considering your brand personality, image and persona, you need to start conversations with your audience that are not outright promotional gimmicks but sincere and genuine engagement.
3. Run Time-Sensitive Initiatives – Note, how I refrained from using the word ‘Campaign’ and instead used ‘Initiatives’. Not every situation must be milked for personal benefit. In 2020, many brands across the world started going out of the way, to help their customers in whatever means they could. An IOS and Android Application called Calm that provides paid meditation sessions offered a series of free courses in light of the mental stress and duress caused by the pandemic. These initiatives go a long way in building brand credibility and improving brand value while simultaneously projecting an empathetic brand image.
4. Empower your Team – More often than not, your team has better ideas to emotionally engage audiences but they either lack the resources needed to execute these ideas or they are hesitant to come forward. Empower and encourage your team to share their ideas and provide them with the necessary support and resources to execute their concepts.
5. Set Examples – Leading by example is perhaps the most effective way to get the ball rolling for your team. Industrialist and philanthropist, Ratan Tata, in 2021 announced that Tata Steel will continue paying salaries of those deceased in the pandemic to their families for financial support. Needless to say, this news significantly impacted the brand image and inspired others to walk in their footsteps.
6. Share Relevant and Positive Content – The idea is to be sensitive to situations, people and circumstances. In times of crisis, share relevant and useful information, in times of duress share positive and uplifting content. Such small things never go unnoticed and customers are always appreciative of such efforts.
7. Stand Up for a Cause – Customers are observant and now with social media platforms at their disposal, they aren’t afraid to call out brands and speak their minds. There is considerable proof that taking a stand and supporting causes as a brand, has substantially improved brand value. Brands like L’Oréal, Reebok and Ben & Jerry’s that openly supported the cause ‘Black Lives Matter’ gained tremendous traction as well as the audience’s vote of confidence.
8. Educate and Entertain – Depending on your brand personality, you could choose between education and entertainment, both of which hold tremendous value in incorporating empathy in your business approaches. For example, LinkedIn is the go-to place for business networking and sharing business-related information. To help its users better leverage the platform, LinkedIn released a free eBook called ‘The Secret Sauce: Learn how LinkedIn uses LinkedIn for marketing. The eBook provides ample insider information which was much appreciated by its users.
9. Launch Loyalty and Rewards Programs – In an interview with Al Lalani, Co-Founder of Annex Cloud, Ali Cudby, author of “Keep Your Customers” rightly explained that, “A loyalty program is a way of incentivizing a customer to take action, but they know that it’s transactional. Loyalty is much more of an emotional connection. That is when you truly feel connected to a company, which cultivates engagement. It’s the difference between strategy and tactics. And it’s the difference between the transaction and the relationship.” A loyalty program is more than just a transactional strategy. It has a considerable impact on customer experience, customer engagement and the overall brand-customer equation. Loyalty strategies must be specifically designed to echo brand values. To learn how you can create dynamic loyalty solutions, connect with team Annex Cloud.
10. Be Humane – Lastly, to truly empathize with your audience, you need to humanize your relationship with them. Make your business more than just a monetary tractional medium between you and your customers and make it a medium that makes your customers feel heard and supported. Being human can help you create a brand that means more to the customers than just a company selling products and services.
Lastly, Belinda Parmar, Founder and CEO of The Empathy Business, sums it up best: “Finally, as with all activities aimed at change, it’s important to measure empathy – a task that’s easier than it sounds as long as you measure what matters.”