New research from video-based human insight firm UserTesting looks at the role CEOs play in building a culture of customer understanding and the impact customer empathy has on driving innovation, digital transformation, financial performance, and ultimately business success.
In a business world where customer sentiment and loyalties can shift overnight, the C-suite has quickly realized that getting customers to stay long-term with their companies now requires an authentic demonstration of customer empathy. Today’s CEOs are realizing that being empathetic to their customers is now a key to their organization’s success, reveals the firm’s new study, The ROI of Customer Empathy, in partnership with the FORTUNE Brand Studio.
CEOs agree that attention must be paid to customer empathy
A key takeaway noted that CEOs recognize the impact that empathy has on the customer experience (CX) with just over half (55 percent) stating acknowledging that high-quality in-person experiences are the top priority for them as leaders. Although priorities across industries differ, the research shows there is a clear recognition that securing strong personal relationships and supporting empathetic interactions are top of mind for business leaders.
The CEOs surveyed acknowledged that accountability starts at the top. Forty percent indicated that they are personally responsible for ensuring that customer understanding underlies the entire process, everything from designing products, through taking them to market, to building great experiences. Additionally, 90 percent understand that they will need to make better use of empathy to interpret customer information and drive customer-facing processes.
Designing better products and experiences takes deep customer understanding
The survey found that CEOs consider customer understanding to be critical for teams involved in marketing/brand-building (38 percent), operations/production and design/prototyping (38 percent), and product ideation (26 percent). To win new consumers and maintain existing customers, organizations need a deep understanding of customer needs, expectations, and feelings. Leaders keenly attuned to the customer journey can glean more than just transactional material from the information they gain from tracking that journey; they can use it to design more successful products and services.
The level of a company’s CX maturity was shown to have a direct impact when it comes to selecting the most important means of helping employees demonstrate customer empathy. The research found that CEOs with mature CX organizations think beyond data capture and more frequently turn to technologies for sharing customer information and insights across the organization. The CEOs surveyed ranked direct interaction with customers as most important overall at 45 percent, followed by customer feedback reports and market research reports, tied at 35 percent.
“The research reflects what we see every day with our customers. Empathy is having a greater and greater impact on overall business outcomes,” said Andy MacMillan, CEO of UserTesting, in a news release. “CEOs must lead the effort to make sure every employee has access to the human insights they need to truly understand their customers. As we see from the findings of this report, CEOs need to be the stewards of customer empathy and foster a company culture ingrained in customer feedback.”
FORTUNE Brand Studio and UserTesting conducted an online survey of 200 CEOs in October 2021. All respondents were located in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. Of these, 60% were CEOs of small-and medium-sized companies (up to 250 employees and 251 to 1,000 employees, respectively), and 40% led large enterprises with more than 1,000 employees.