Think back to the moment Trump got elected for President.
In a nutshell
- Customer-centricity is a response to people demanding more from the brands they use and interact with.
- Empathy goes hand in hand with customer-centricity, and in this respect many brands are failing.
- People are labelled as 'consumers', 'claimants', a 'low value contract', a 'lapsed buyer', a 'target upsell', or a 'budget shopper'. This language has an impact on the internal culture of companies and the way employees behave towards each other and toward customers.
- Internal company culture translates directly into how people experience a brand. In a culture where prescriptive scripts, checklists and targets are the tools, and sticks and carrots are used to drive scores, it's unlikely a spirit of empathy will thrive.
During the reflective period that followed, the world was asking itself who the people were that voted for him – almost half of the US population, similar to the numbers in the Brexit vote. Why didn’t we know these people and how they were feeling?
As marketers, advertisers and insights professionals, we’re supposed to be in touch – it’s our job to know people. Why then did the results of the presidential election come as such a surprise to many?
But we’ve learned our lesson, right? We are aware that Trump’s message resonates with a large portion of the population, we recognise their pain and understand how they feel – we empathise. More importantly, we understand that fifty percent of our customers and staff share the same views.
It’s inevitable that people hold differing views on everything, not just politics – smoking, alcohol consumption, education, public healthcare, traffic. But to be able to connect, we must empathise. That’s not the same as agreeing with the other person’s opinions, but it is about respecting people’s right to their views and seeking to understand the underlying aspects of their lives that cause them to think the way they do.
The hunt is now on for the skeletons in Trump’s closet that could lead to his impeachment. It makes for lively discussion, but in none of the conversations is anyone asking how those who voted for Trump will feel if he is brought down by the very powers that they voted against.
Imagine how disenfranchised and powerless people will feel – people who grabbed the chance to vote for someone who they believed could shake things up and recognise that life for them was getting worse – if the establishment brings him down before he has achieved what he promised.
But I’m not hearing these concerns being voiced. Was our empathy so short lived? I suspect not. I suspect it was never truly authentic because there was an essential lack of curiosity. Yes, it was a harsh realisation for some that they misread a large portion of the population. Many marketers reflected on whether they were suffering from the same blind spot about their customers. But look how quickly we’ve lapsed back to an inward looking perspective on customer-centricity.
Customer-centricity without empathy is a hollow vessel
The term ‘customer-centricity’ signals a cultural shift in how brands approach customer interactions, largely in response to people’s changing expectations. We’ve seen the marketing world change its perspective as it moves away from traditional customer service (dominated by wishes to “have a nice day”) and into an all-encompassing brand experience.
Customer-centricity is a response to people demanding more from the brands they use and interact with. There’s been a wave of thought recently that the Western world has reached “peak stuff” and amidst the chaos of a saturated market, brands need to provide a rewarding experience and an empathetic service to their customers if they want to stand out.
But empathy goes hand in hand with customer-centricity, and in this respect many brands are failing. To be customer-centric (read, human-centric) we must truly understand who our customers are, and we can only do that by being genuinely curious. This needs to go deeper than surface level demographics and into the nature of their lives – what motivates them, what brings them joy, what troubles keep them up at night, what role do our products play in their lives. If it’s a minor or a major role, does the brand act accordingly? More often than not brands neglect to make this deep connection.