Have you ever thought about how much empathy your favourite brands show toward their customers? It turns out that a lot of businesses don't seem to care anywhere near as much as their customers want them to.
For instance, did you know that 49% of respondents said that no industries care about them and their families? Shocking, right?
In fact, a lot has been written about the cost of living crisis, in that it's hard to scroll through a news app without hitting a branded section containing headline inflation, money-saving hacks, and human experience stories of hardship. However, one aspect has been continually overlooked – Empathy.
According to a tracker study conducted by our team since June last year, 40% of respondents believe that no industries are trustworthy in a crisis, while 44% said that no industries provide reassurance in a crisis. This deep cynicism remains, and the extent of this cynicism is elevated even further for older generations.
But why is empathy so important? Well, it's simple, if your business doesn't adopt a more empathetic approach, you will lose customers, and you'll find it harder to recruit new ones. Our study found that once price is taken off the table, the number one driver of brand loyalty was ‘How they treat me as a customer.’
In order for businesses to deliver against this need and create more Empathetic Experiences, it’s critical that customers feel seen, heard, and reassured. After all, empathy without action is just sympathy.
When it comes to perceptions of how industries are proactively helping during the crisis and demonstrating an understanding of customer needs, there has been a significantly positive uplift in sentiment. This has been most noticeable amongst supermarkets, the ‘heroes’ of our previous study, and utility companies, who were very much the villains. Against the measure of ‘proactive help’ utility companies rose by 18% with supermarkets increasing by 15%, versus ‘understanding needs,’ where the rises were 3% and 8% respectively.
Through desk research and client conversations, we have also identified a number of empathy in action examples, from Nationwide launching a crisis helpline to various supermarkets offering free meals for kids during the school holidays.
However, it’s not all good news, public transport, holiday providers, hospitality providers, and local/independent stores were all deemed to be listening less to ‘people like me’ than 6 months ago.
We also cut the research data by age and found that there are significant differences, not just by where they were focusing their discretionary spending but also by their future outlook. For example, 25% of Gen Z believe things will get better for them in the next 6 months whereas only 7% of Gen X and 9% of Boomers think that is the case. These findings show that a broad, one size fits all approach to empathy, or ‘empathy washing’ as we call it, just won’t cut it. True empathy requires a much more personal and nuanced approach.
So what is clear is that the opportunity to create more differentiation through delivering empathetic experiences is wide open. For those who move into this territory, the first-mover advantage will be felt, not just during the crisis, but also in the following years when customers regain their spending power.
If you're interested in learning more about the study, our Empathy Framework, or our Audit, please get in touch and we'll send you a full copy of the report.