Build Customer Empathy Into Your Business Model

Helen Dwight

Part of the “CIO’s Intelligent Enterprise series”

Often when I’m out running, with fresh air in my lungs and listening to music, my mind wanders to random topics. Today, for example, I found myself thinking about the importance of an amazing customer experience (probably because I’d just experienced the opposite!).

Do you know what I mean? Your delighted reaction when you see a cool tech product with an interface that seems to have been designed just for you. Or those companies that make it so easy to purchase what you want, with one click, and deliver it quickly and effortlessly. The businesses that surprise you by anticipating what you might need and produce goods or services you hadn’t even imagined before.

How do these companies do what others don’t?

I think the answer is quite simple: the companies I admire think about the customer as a person. They empathize, putting themselves “in the customer’s shoes.” They deliver on their promises. After all, words are cheap; actions are stronger. And they design their systems and processes around delivering what is best for the customer.

In your shoes

Here’s a good example of a company that gets it. I recently met a senior executive of a global sportswear manufacturer that’s shaking up its business to become even more customer-centric and agile. The company aspires to proactively meet customer expectations and deliver a game-changing consumer experience. What’s the strategy?

Let’s say you want to order a new pair of personalized athletic shoes. The company has already conducted research that drives product development. But now it can use data-rich customer-profile information to inspire you with product ideas based on your personality, interests, and buying patterns.

The company’s website might show you colors and styles that match your past buying habits. Then it proposes that you customize a pair of running shoes. It’s a great way to let you exercise your creative muscles – all while enjoying a dynamic brand experience.

Perhaps you want to customize not just the product, but the way it fits. What if sensors could take 3D scans of your foot; measure your walking or running stride, foot pressure, and pronation to identify your unique motion path; and upload that information to the website? The manufacturer upgrades your shoes and creates a pair with built-in 3D-printed insoles made just for you.

Innovation in back-end systems

Taking your order and delivering it quickly and cost-effectively are two different things. But our example company has already thought about this. It’s not enough to integrate only the customer-facing systems. Creating a great customer experience requires connections with the supply chain and back-office systems, too.

The company intends to embed machine learning technologies throughout its procurement processes, which will monitor production activity, pinpoint potential problems, and identify opportunities. Even before orders come in, predictive analytics will help ensure that the right materials are sourced to meet anticipated demand based on the latest fashions.

Flexible manufacturing cells will be connected enterprise-wide, maximizing machine uptime and optimizing productivity so that even personalized shoes can be produced in a few weeks. Because logistics will also be integrated into the enterprise systems, the company can accelerate product shipping and delivery. So your personalized running shoes will arrive at your doorstep long before you can say, “Where is my tracking number?”

Connection to the future

The manufacturer understands that building customer-centricity into the company’s end-to-end processes will boost customer loyalty, brand recognition, and revenues. Executing on this vision requires unprecedented intelligence throughout the corporate business systems.

In fact, it requires an intelligent enterprise strategy – one that connects processes and shares information across the business. Intelligent enterprises use emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things, and predictive analytics to deliver higher-value outcomes and create engaging customer experiences.

Using process automation, intelligent enterprises transform workforce engagement. They create step changes in productivity and invent new business models and revenue streams by monetizing data-driven capabilities and applying core competencies in new ways. And they deliver an exceptional customer experience by proactively responding to consumer expectations.

To ensure that companies run at their best, stay ahead of the game, and deliver exceptional customer experiences, CEOs and CIOs must take the lead and encourage their organizations to innovate, embrace change, and become more intelligent enterprises. Our sportswear manufacturer chose customized shoes as one of its signature initiatives. And I’m sure they are already planning for their next innovation.

How will you build on the digital innovation wave to capture the imagination and loyalty of your customers?

Do more with less, automate processes, impress customers, empower employees, and create revenue – with ease and intelligence. Join us for the Intelligent Enteprise Webcast series.

Helen Dwight

About Helen Dwight

Helen Dwight is a VP Global Marketing at SAP, with over 20 years of experience in the IT industry spanning regional, country, and global roles based in the U.S., UK, Brazil, and Latin America. Besides marketing, her management experience spans technical pre-sales, product management, and field and channel marketing. As someone who enjoys driving projects from strategy to execution, her passion is in helping clients and partners to articulate the real value of technology and use it to drive greater purpose within their own organizations.