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Book review

Book review: Customer Empathy by Alex Allwood


In the second episode of The Limetropy CX Book Club, a panel of experts review Customer Empathy by Alex Allwood

31st Mar 2021
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So we’ve probably all heard that aging comes with all kinds of changes – from wrinkles and grey hair, to muscle mass and bone density loss.

Pile on a few more decades, and your weight-bearing, high-intensity-training regime may start to include sudokus and mental agility exercises to keep concentration, logic and mental agility sharp. But what if I told you that another thing we should all be adding to the “what to expect when you´re aging” list is empathy loss?

While not directly linked to aging per se, but to what usually comes with it – positions of higher authority as we progress in the corporate ladder, empathy loss should be as expected from promotions as decreasing muscle mass for those of us who sit all day. Alex Allwood blew me right out of the water as I followed her thread to the scientific evidence for this, and it´s a thought that hasn´t left my mind since.

Wikimedia Commons
Bridge over a pond of water Lilies, 1899
Claude Monet
Wikimedia Commons
The Japanese Footbridge, 1922
Claude Monet

I am reminded of Monet´s changing vision as his eyesight diminished in old age due to cataracts. Would he have been as aware as us here, looking at his paintings side by side – same subject – that the way he perceived the world had changed so very much in the space of 23 years?

Empathy preventive maintenance begins with the awareness that our ability to read other people’s emotions and adapt our behaviour accordingly can change dramatically throughout life – importantly, without us even being aware it’s happening. Empathy too is a lens through which we see the world, and connect to it. Like everything else, we need to exercise it to keep it in good shape!

Alex Allwood’s Customer Empathy is a deep look into empathy – what it is, what it means for business and customers, and also a great source of examples and inspiring ideas for strengthening it, as well as cautionary tales of what happens when it is personally or organizationally weak. Here’s what this month’s guest readers shared about reading it. For the full discussion, more empathy tips and Alex’s answers to other interesting questions, you can watch the full session below.

“Customer Empathy’ tackles head on the central and crucial problem with delivering and embedding successful customer experience strategies – that the very act of designing a business process to follow creates a barrier between the human customer and the product or service. 

"Alex Allwood shines a clear light on the importance of connecting business goals with real customer needs and offers some great tools and strategies for overcoming the gap.  She highlights some scary statistics about the pitfalls of CSat scoring, but also offers some really uplifting stories around successes from businesses and leaders that really do walk the talk.  I’ll be recommending this book to colleagues in CX but also business leaders in general, it’s truly insightful but also offers a lot of practical help and advice.” - Kate Baird

“An easy read packed with great information. Alex explains how organizations are focusing too much on efficiency, metrics and satisfaction scores such as OSAT and NPS, and this hurting the customer experience. Metrics and survey scores alone don’t provide us with the information we need to humanize the customer experience. But we can gain the information we need through customer empathy, walking in our customer shoes and storytelling.

"Alex provides several examples of how companies have improved their customers journey with empathy. With customer empathy, customers feel more valued, and employees feel more motivated to help them knowing that their contribution will make a difference. I love how Alex ends the book by providing several guides, tools and resources to start building customer empathy within your organisation.” - Jennifer Fitch

“Customer Empathy is seeing a business through your human lens. See beyond profits and humanizing technology. I believe it is a great book to think about how to introduce a new perspective to executives and leadership. 

"I like how the author explains how to decode empathy, using the 'VoC" programs, asking the right questions is important, and sharing the customer's emotions creates empathy in the organisations.

"These are the highlights for me:

  1. Asking open-ended questions, especially why.
  2. Use an interview format instead of a questionnaire.
  3. Probing questions to dig deeper into the emotions. This is why asking ‘feeling’ questions is so critical. Asking ‘feeling questions’ provides an understanding of the customer emotions associated with their experiences. When you ask about how they feel, they’ll often provide a short answer such as, ‘It made me frustrated.’ Gentle, probing questions will help you understand what ‘frustrated’ really means to them in that context. For example, ‘Can you tell me more about why this made you frustrated?’
  4. Using the storytelling with the customer journey to include customer's emotions and service delivery opportunities, and the techniques to take action with empathy. It is a great synthesis of tools.” - Alicia Freites

“Thought provoking book from Alex exploring the importance of Purpose and taking action when you have clarity on your purpose. 

"Some really interesting thoughts too on how we humanise the scores we use to measure CX and almost forget the score and focus more on building meaningful connections.

"Purpose and customer metrics really resonated with me in this book and Alex approaches CX from a very practical level and some great action points for you as a reader and thought leader to take away.” - Garry Gormley

“Customer Empathy is quite easily a must read for anyone driving customer centric operations within their business. Alex does an amazing job in explaining exactly why empathy should be any businesses corner-stone and uses a wonderful range of tangible examples to bring concept into reality - this book may well be my new business bible.” - Katie Stabler

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” (Stephen R Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) This quote kept popping into my head throughout reading ‘Customer Empathy’.

"It shows that no matter how hard you try, you are never going to be ‘five-star’‘first-class’‘world-class’, or whichever other term your company claims to be when it comes to the customer experience, without listening to how your customers feel during every step of their journey with your brand

"Customer Empathy is easy-to-digest and full of lightbulb moments alongside ideas for ensuring that “If I was the customer how would this make me feel?” is the first and last question asked by EVERYONE in every company before any decisions are made. It’s certainly a book that I know I will be referring to again and again” - Sarah Turner

And what did the author think of this virtual book club meet?

“This was quite an undertaking of time and effort from the group of CX experts who purchased, read and reviewed my book, and I admit, I was a little nervous about what would be said, would the book be loved or loathed? While I waited in the online green-room the book club discussed their learnings and takeaways. Then it was my turn to answer their questions; being with like-minded CX folk made for enjoyable conversation and further exploration of the topic of applying customer empathy in their organisations. Kudos to organisers Limetropy for a well organised and patronised online event.” - Alex Allwood

If you would like to join the Limetropy CX Book Clubs discussions, sign up as a guest reviewer! You will be sent the book of the month courtesy of Limetropy, and get the chance to speak with the author and discuss CX topics with CXers from all over the world!

Next up on our reading list is Alan Pennington’s The Customer Experience Book: How to design, measure and improve customer experience in your business. You can now also join us live on Eventbrite! Be sure to check our upcoming books list there so you can come and join us – we’d love to hear from you too!

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