Summary: Some of the world´s most successful businesses think (and feel) like their customers. These companies employ empathetic business models that govern how they develop products or services as well as how they relate with their customer base. Tuning into the customers´ needs and insights can result in the most effective way to do business.
Until the world is tenanted with robots, business will be governed by emotions. Companies that understand that people are emotionally driven are more likely to succeed than those that do not. Simply by listening to clients’ needs and insights, companies can improve their business practices and products. Designing a business model based on empathy for the customer is the key to engaging their interest and maintaining a successful relationship.
Companies like Nokia and Apple have extraordinary resources and use them to hire sociologists to help produce customer-centered business models and products that people truly want to buy—and will buy if the research is well-founded. Many companies also direct resources into improving their executives’ ability to listen to people and also to read people—to understand what motivates them and their particular demographic. This psychological aspect is nothing new to sales, but basing a whole business model upon the foundation of people’s emotions is an innovative approach to making money.
Of course, it is one thing for Apple to hire sociologists to collect data about people’s feelings, but it’s quite another for a small struggling business to pour valuable resources into a new business model. Yet, a struggling business stands to benefit from this investment. Installing an empathetic business model doesn’t have to take a lot of money; it simply requires your company to take time to think carefully about how customers feel and to act upon those findings whether you find them out yourself or hire a psychologist to do it.
The first part of organizing a new business model is to shift the business’s perspective. Instead of asking your executives, “what can we sell to our customers,” ask, “what do our customers need us to sell to them?” It’s basic, but it’s a marked shift. This change in perspective will eventually color most aspects of the business. Eventually, you may decide not to ask, “how much money can we make” and opt for this: “how much will our customers be willing to pay?”
Fundamentally understanding what customers want and need will give your business an edge over businesses that rely on more traditional models. Because your company will have thought deeply about how customers like to communicate, you won’t force them to wait through five sets of phone menu options before reaching a customer service representative. You and your colleagues will have already established what frustrates your customers and what makes them feel loyal to your company.
A customer-centered business model can be tailored to suit both your needs and your customers. It is a new business attitude that harkens back to the good old days when you really could do business with a handshake—it’s personal even if your client base is in the thousands. Once you commit to this new model, it should cover most aspects of your business—advertising, product development, customer service, and more. Successfully integrating an empathetic model should result in a shared sense of value between you and your customer base.
Brainstorming for ways to help your customers and listening to what customers say is another great place to begin making the shift to a more emotionally-governed business. Then, consider what your customers need that, perhaps, no other company is giving to them. Someone once figured out that a parent with a car filled with kids didn’t really want to take the time to haul them all into a fast food restaurant to buy them all hamburgers, so the drive thru window was born. There are still unfound ways to please your customers and to find new products and services that will keep them coming back to your company.
In the end, this model can pay off. Your business can grow and be successful while still aiming to please the people that support your business. It is a demonstrated respect of the relationship between you and your client that will be at the heart of your new business model. It’s a way for everybody involved to feel good.
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