In today’s world building a loyal customer base is very difficult. When I started my career 16 years ago the mantra used to be the following

You should not just meet customer expectations but beat the customer expectations to attain customer satisfaction.

Pretty soon I realized that customer satisfaction is not enough and that there was something beyond customer satisfaction that companies must do. I realized that customer loyalty is something that the companies should aim for if they want repeat business from the customers. Many companies face challenges in building loyalty. The following are some of the key factors that are used by companies to build customer loyalty. I inferred this from the book The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab.

  • Add value to the service or product offered to the customer.
  • Reduce cost to deliver the service or make the product.
  • Increase customer convenience and comfort in doing business with the company.

These three factors look very ideal and easy to follow yet companies were unable to accomplish their mission in building customer loyalty. When I started digging to find the real problem in building customer loyalty I realized that the missing component was empathy. I remember a very famous quote which describes the value of empathy.

People may forget what you told them but they will not forget how you made them feel.

Instead of coming up with new incentives for customers, companies should teach their teams on how to handle customer issues with empathy. I learnt this lesson when I was given the responsibility to handle customer complaints directly. Once one of the business teams in a company called me in for a meeting to review their current software and propose new solution. When I reviewed the software I did not make any comment about the software but I empathized with the customer for the challenges they face daily. I made a connection with the user and this helped me build a good relationship with the customer.

If empathizing is easy then why are not many companies not following this practice. There are various reasons for it. The first and foremost is that most of the team handling customer issues are giving more importance to the processes than to the customer’s problems. To state succinctly.

Rules are given more importance than feelings

For people who believe that if a team plays by a set of rules the outcome will be predictable, need to look at chess. The rules in various sports should always make the outcomes easily predictable but that’s not the case.

I have seen top sales people in companies who used empathy to win customer’s repeat business even if they were not able to solve all the customer issues.

On a sarcastic note United Airlines had a very similar policy which I have stated for your reference below. The incident is explained in this article.

If you can’t beat a customer’s expectation then beat the customer.

I hope this post resonates some of the incidents in your experience and makes you reflect how you could have used empathy to easily solve those problems.