Dan Arielly nails customer empathy

RadarI’m a big fan of Prof. Arielly’s work, such as the book Predictably Irrational, and subscribe to his weekly Q&A.  His response to a question this week offers great advice to us in CX who are trying to create customer empathy.

Dear Dan,

I’m an air-traffic controller at a large airport. I don’t work in the tower but in a remote radar facility about 30 miles away, handling traffic within 50 miles of the airport. As a radar controller, everything is completely abstract. Would being able to actually see the planes I am guiding take off and land generate greater job satisfaction than just seeing targets on a screen?

—Zack

Probably. In many different domains (including moral judgment and empathy), when we present information in increasingly abstract ways, emotions get suppressed, and we care less. So if you plan to stay in this type of job for a while, moving to a tower might well boost your motivation.

But even if you stay put, other changes might increase the perceived meaning of your labor. What if your screen showed how many passengers were on each plane? What if, at landing time, you were told that they were all healthy? What if you were shown some pictures of the people waiting for them at the airport? With such changes, the information you have about the passengers in your care would be more than just a dot, and both your caring and your motivation should increase.

Takeaway

One of the biggest problems we face in customer experience is when employees become disconnected from customers.  I’ve worked in a division before where nobody in product management or marketing had ever met a client, and we had demonstrably the worst customer experience in the marketplace, leading the industry in cancellation rates.

Take his advice to heart – how can you continually share the impact with your employees, turning your customers into human beings, rather than dots on a screen?