Microsoft conducted a survey which shows that consumers had an attention span of 12 seconds in 2000, but today it is now eight seconds thanks to smartphone technology. A goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds, which means that assuming you can find him, you have more time to get business done with Nemo than you do your customer!

Improving Customer Experience (CX) is at the heart of digital transformation, and in turn, technology, automation, data, and processes constitute the core of digital transformation.

A major part of the transformation challenge is how do we harness people, process, technology, and data, in order to generate positive feelings within our customers?

If you are skeptical of the importance of empathy when developing solutions to improve CX, consider this from Forrester’s Kate Leggett:

“73% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.”

It is not enough that we deliver short wait times, multiple touch points and self-service, or delivery of better quality products and services in whatever flavor is demanded. Looking beyond the technology and automation, the actual end goal is to make the customer feel good about their interactions with you.

Even if you have great systems and technology, fantastic products and functionality, the reality is if you make me feel bad, I’m spending money with your competitors who may not be as good, but don’t upset me as much.

In a world of Big Data, it is relatively easy to dismiss the emotional component, however, connecting in a positive fashion with our customers on an emotional level is exactly what improving CX is all about. Here at HighGear, we have a stated goal of delivering a “delightful” experience for our users, not simply a clean UI with fast speed and a long list of great functionality, but a Lean BPM solution that people actually enjoy working on.

It’s easy to relegate empathy as some fuzzy concept that is hard to define and harder to measure, but we cannot ignore the math: 73% of customers want to feel that you value their time, but they are giving you less time to do this.

Meanwhile, almost 90% of online purchases are abandoned during the checkout process, due to customer distraction, lack of trust, complicated processes seeking to do too much too soon, and a host of other conversion issues. The dollar amount on lost online sales from cart abandonment is put at over $18 billion annually, and no matter what the technical reason, all of this loss can be attributed to a lack of empathy for customers.

To further challenge empathy skeptics, I remember a Bain & Co. survey some years ago which first asked businesses how they rated their CX: 80% claimed they offered ‘superior’ service. When Bain asked their customers how they felt, a paltry 8% believed they had received ‘superior’ service. There has been, and in my opinion still is, a significant gulf between what we think we are delivering and how our customers actually feel about that experience. is a website devoted to helping customers navigate customer service within large organizations to get to speak with a real, live human being, which is a challenge within the IRS. But what I find interesting is that most of the organizations listed on there are not government bureaucracies but large enterprises, Verizon, eBay, Google, Bank of America and more. When they launched, they had 10 companies they offered customer service assistance to, but within days this grew to over 400!

The fact there are third-party services succeeding and thriving by helping your customers navigate your customer service should be disconcerting to say the least.

Based on conversations I have had over the last year or so, the unpleasant feeling I get is that we are still blinding ourselves to what the technology is, our capacity to gather and manipulate Big Data, cutting costs, increasing throughput, and a focus on what ‘stuff’ is, when we should be focusing on the end goal: creating delighted customers.

Delighted customers become loyal customers.

I think Forrester’s view on empathy and the enterprise is very germane here:

“To address customer needs, enterprise architects must empathize with customers and their emotional states when scoping and designing new solutions and services…”

While I agree with Forrester, I personally don’t believe this goes anywhere near far enough: just as with Digital Transformation, if you ask twenty people what is meant with Customer Experience, you will get as twenty different answers.

[I highly recommend Jim Sinur on Digital Transformation and Craig Reid on Customer Experience, both of whom have recently published books on these subjects]

Yet, customers are telling us it is how they are made to feel when interacting with you that is what counts to them.

Does the following sound familiar to you?

Marketing leads Product Development when it comes to CX, typically with a focus on features and functionality.

Operations views CX through a lens of quality, deadlines and reducing cost.

Customer Service focuses on the snapshot of the transaction at the touch point with the customer, but not what has gone before, nor what will happen next aside from the perfunctory, scripted and very hollow sounding question, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” When the issue I called in for help with is not dealt with, I’m not inclined to believe you can help me with anything else.

None of these approaches take empathy into account, and they view CX from within their respective silos i.e. what each functional area believes CX actually is, and limited by their own perception and framework.

There is either a weak or no overarching approach to what good Customer Experience actually is or should be.

The very real danger is that organizations are “playing” at improving CX, adopting a tinkering approach focusing closer to the task or functional level, with explicit objectives framed in time, cost, quality or volume. We must not allow technology, data and functionality to blind ourselves to the real challenge: how to create positive feelings within customers who have an attention span less than a goldfish.

About Josh Yeager, COO

As HighGear’s COO, Josh is responsible for managing the Product Development, Professional Services, and Customer Support teams. His eye for detail and quality are what drive the company forward in its pursuit of excellence.
He’s been at HighGear since the very beginning, helping to build it from the ground up as its co-founder. First, he was responsible for leading product design, but as the company and his experience grew, he took on more management responsibilities, eventually becoming HighGear’s Chief Operating Officer.
He’s a graduate of the University of Maryland. Prior to HighGear, Josh worked on veterinary pharmaceutical reference software and custom business applications.
He’s married to his beautiful wife, Tara, with whom he has four children. In his free time, Josh loves nothing more than enjoying a good book.

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