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ContributionNavigating economic uncertainty with empathy

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Vicky Katsabaris, director of Experience Management Solutions & Strategy, Asia-Pacific & Japan at SAP / Courtesy of SAP
Vicky Katsabaris, director of Experience Management Solutions & Strategy, Asia-Pacific & Japan at SAP / Courtesy of SAP

By Vicky Katsabaris

Many organizations across Asia-Pacific are once again tasked with navigating economic uncertainty.

As organizations across the region shift their focus from economic recovery to growing inflation, the rising costs of living and doing business are rapidly becoming an increasing concern for local citizens, businesses and government agencies.

Business leaders are faced with a growing list of critical challenges, including the race for great talent, rethinking ways of working and finding and keeping loyal customers in post-pandemic landscapes.

Despite the uncertainty, the rewards are huge for those that get their response right ― as demonstrated by the companies that led the way during the pandemic. This sentiment is shared by the Singapore Economic Development Board, which recently touched on the opportunity for Singapore to attract global talent and investment in uncertain markets.

Explaining power of human empathy

The key to successfully addressing the challenges faced and grabbing the opportunities ahead is unlocking the power of human empathy in business. By focusing on being more human, organizations will naturally see top- and bottom-line impact.

Today, we're increasingly seeing people want to work for ― and do business with ― companies which can truly understand and deliver against their individual needs. For example, according to Qualtrics research more than half of Koreans (54 percent) have switched brands because the customer experience did not meet their expectations. Similarly, Qualtrics' 2022 Employee Experience Trends report found a culture of belonging, wellbeing, and customer focus are some of the key drivers of retention in Korea.

In fast-changing environments ― like today's ― keeping across what matters most to your customers and employees is a critical and valuable differentiator. By staying aligned with people's changing needs, leaders can take confident and precise action on what matters, when it matters, at scale. A deep understanding of peoples' needs also means investments can be prioritized and focused on making the biggest impact, and it helps make adjustments to business operations without sacrificing retention, culture or results.

Unlocking power of human empathy in business

The business value of empathy is extensive. But in order to unlock it, organizations need to build authentic relationships with their customers and employees at scale. This shift requires businesses and governments to rethink the ways they manage relationships with customers and employees, using modern experience management technology to take a more human-centered approach.

Instead of trying to tackle different challenges at the department level, such as marketing, HR or IT, organizations can take a unified and connected approach across the entire company with experience management. After all, your customers and employees don't view every engagement in isolation ― and neither should you.

Within this changing approach, there are three capabilities to prioritize:

1. Listening and understanding. Today, customers and employees share their feedback in multiple ways such as across social media, review sites, through customer support and as part of feedback surveys. Millions of conversations are happening every day and many are going unheard. As a result, companies need to ensure they can capture all direct and indirect feedback if they're going to truly understand what matters.

2. Remembering everything in context. Alongside capturing feedback, organizations need to understand the context behind it ― such as why did the customer call support, were they frustrated, what difficulties were they encountering? By understanding the underlying cause of feedback, companies can analyze insights against existing operational data like demographics or customer history to identify ways to meaningfully improve the experiences delivered.

3. Acting with empathy and speed. The most critical step is acting on insights with empathy and speed. Using the right tools, organizations can seamlessly orchestrate workflows, rapidly resolve issues or improve processes and capabilities to continually improve the experiences they deliver.

Proving business value of empathy

Already in Asia-Pacific we're seeing local organizations reap the rewards by leading with empathy.

At the beginning of the pandemic, one of the region's biggest telecoms supplemented the annual engagement survey with frequent employee pulses. These regular insights enable the company to better understand its employee experience at different moments throughout the employee journey and calendar year, helping inform the actions being taken. This shift has had a significant impact on business outcomes ― from improved employee engagement, reduced employee churn and greater manager effectiveness.

Big gains are also being achieved at one of Asia-Pacific's leading financial service providers. By capturing insights at different stages of the customer journey and through multiple channels, the provider is using feedback to continually iterate and improve the products and services in the market. Customer feedback is also being used to support employee development, while automated workflows in the platform help the company resolve issues rapidly when a poor customer experience is reported.

Placing empathy at center

As organizations across the region respond to evolving macroeconomic environments, finding ways to act with empathy must be at the center of their response.

The ability to truly understand what matters to customers and employees, and then take action when and where it matters is more important than ever. And thanks to the stronger customer and employee relationships it will cultivate ― now and into the future ― the business rewards of leading with empathy will be long-lasting, sustainable and significant.

The writer is director of Experience Management Solutions & Strategy, Asia-Pacific & Japan at SAP.
Baek Byung-yeul

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