The ‘Data-driven Empathy’ Phenomenon

The ‘Data-driven Empathy’ Phenomenon

‘Client-first’ business mentality, on steroids. This is what you need to know:

Data. While it may seem that global organisations today only have one thing on their mind, the reasons for it abound. Data is set to be the new oil — the new life force behind all major industry and global trade for the coming decade. Every process involved in the journey, and every step of the process itself, is set to be powered by swathes of data with hordes of people consistently making an effort to find it and then finding the best use for it.

However, building an organisation that puts clients first is more than just about acting on the right data — it means acting with empathy and care. This is perhaps why ‘Data-driven empathy’, a phenomenon championed, among many, by US-based tech giant, Salesforce, is set to gain centre-stage in the whirlpool world of data and insights, promptly. As the Harvard Business Review puts it:

Data-driven empathy is about humanizing data: bringing personal insights to life in a way that allows you to know your customer beyond the incomplete information that populates traditional systems of records. It’s about the intent to seek these insights, aligning systems, operational models, and processes focused on unifying and analyzing customer data so that it’s insightful, actionable, and personal.”

Empathy through Technology — Actionable insights

The main objective is to work with greater purpose and relatability – evolving daily functions in a way that always puts responding and adapting to customer needs in real-time – the most integral pillar of customer-centric enterprises.

Rob Goodman, VP and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Program Owner at Pacific Life Insurance Co. opines: “Being customer-centric is not about a point in time or selling one product. It spans all of a person’s life events. Regardless of where someone comes in to us as a customer, we need to anticipate those events before they even ask.”

This is a rather arduous task, however. It requires not just the right data, but the right data architecture that will enable a single unified view of the customer whilst allowing for the easy flow of access between cross-functional teams to deliver holistic value-added customer experiences. It requires an organisational structure that prioritises, above all, data proficiency. Certain aspects are key to this:

  • Customer Feedback: Embedding customer-listening into every step of the business process is going to be the most primary, indispensable pillar of a customer-centric environment. This is what is known as the ‘voice-of-the-customer’ function, and involves establishing a baseline for quality based on business objectives and client expectations, and acting on those data insights seamlessly across cross-functional teams.
  • Establishing an end-to-end customer experiences (CX): Ensuring that quality remains high and aspects like Net promoter score, Customer Lifetime Value score and Customer Satisfaction scores always remain high. It is crucial to remember, in this regard, that expectations will be set by comparing organisations across the board – hence, maintaining just the industry standard isn’t adequate to become sector leaders.This also involves:

(i) creating a functional CX-leadership committee that is accountable for data-driven empathy; (in fact, a recent HBR Analytic Services Survey even found that firms leading in CX are twice as likely to have dedicated CX officers driving the effort than otherwise);

(ii) establishing employee training programmes stressing on CX success and data proficiency; and

(iii) empowering autonomous employee decision-making based on data whilst also prioritising collaborative department-level goals and initiatives.

  • Defining a framework that translates data into actionable insights: Unified customer experiences require businesses to establish social contracts in a comprehensive way that encourages exchange of data for value-based experiences.

The HBR adds: “To continually earn customer data and build trust means applying insights that keep connecting, improving, and personalizing their experiences. The process of harnessing and organizing around data, extracting meaningful insights, and putting insights into action to deliver useful, usable, and enjoyable experiences creates a data flywheel that keeps spinning and enhancing customer experiences.”

This requires, in the least, (i) an upgraded data program connecting new/missing data points into the unified customer view; (ii) surface-relevant and timely insights across functions and teams; and (iii) personalised customer experiences at scale.

Technology is set to be crucial for this, especially in investing in intelligent, automated and integrated technology systems that can connect data points and provide a holistic view of workplace productivity.

A holistic all-round view of customers is the first step to data-driven empathy. If done right, this has the potential to elevate the ‘human-side’ of data, revealing opportunities to engage with customers in a way that is much more personal, relevant and useful in the long-run.


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