Empathy: a powerful business construct

Dr. Shannon Rogers explains how she is eliciting loyalty with data-driven, empathetic user experiences.

By Sara Downey, thought leadership, Dell Technologies

“No school teaches what I do,” says Dr. Shannon Rogers, a behavioral scientist at Dell Technologies and a contributor to the Dell “Breakthrough” study.

And she’s probably right. Dr. Rogers is fusing the fundamentals of epidemiology (the study of health-related conditions in specified populations) with a methodical examination of how to build customer loyalty in digital spaces.

In collaboration with fellow neuro-cognitive scientists at Dell, she’s quantifying loyalty and creating a framework that Dell, a large company with a complex structure, can use to ensure its customers are always listened to, appreciated and served according to their unique predilections.

It’s a complex undertaking, involving a lot of data from Dell’s website and a deep understanding of the principles of human behavior, which she has acquired through years of academic and healthcare research. She brings this rich body of work and thought to Breakthrough, Dell’s study that found businesses are struggling to overcome the human barriers to transformation, such as a desire to cling to established ways of working/habits. But they can overcome these challenges by breaking through with empathy, which is the subject of Dell’s latest report on the study findings.

Dr. Rogers is quoted in the report as saying, “Empathetic companies build loyalty, the cornerstone of a productive and effective workforce. Its influence can’t be underestimated.”

I grabbed a few moments with Dr. Rogers to understand how her work is making the necessary connections.

Taking a scientific approach

Dr. Rogers believes that empathy, customer and employee loyalty, and the end-user experience are interwoven. “’Breakthrough’ proves what I’ve been saying for some time. Empathy is not a soft topic that we can pay lip service to. It should shape change programs, the customer journey, all communications and more. It’s key to unlocking customer loyalty, and with that, revenue.”

Dr. Rogers is currently working on validating an empathy construct that captures nuances in nested determinants of human behavior to ensure all online visitors feel cared for.

“I’m essentially capturing what customers are telling us, even if they don’t realize it. We’re proxying implicit feedback for explicit feedback. That involves capturing data, finding correlations and then testing those correlations for convergent validity. It’s a lot of granular work, but we don’t want to miss an opportunity to care for our customers.”

Some of that feedback informs how much information is helpful. Given that almost half (49%) of study respondents are routinely overwhelmed by complex technologies and/or too much choice (too many solutions/settings to navigate), a rigorous approach to revealing what information is necessary and constructive would be hugely beneficial. It’s why Dell has put so much emphasis on creating a simple Apex Console with online configuration flows matched to the most likely business needs.

Dr. Rogers sums up the conundrum neatly: “Knowledge is power until there is too much of it. People don’t want to be burdened by unnecessary choices that are displayed in ways that befuddle decision-making. Unfortunately, abstracting detail is harder than serving all that data up on a platter. It requires thoughtful distillation.”

She also underscores the power of empathy. “When people feel empathized with, they form a connection of value. That value empowers them to make business-savvy choices and ultimately take the company forward.”

Dr. Rogers highlights the importance of the Breakthrough in understanding the role of empathy within organizations, and the necessity to prioritize employees. “It reminds us that our people remain our greatest source of value and if they feel listened to and motivated, they’re more likely to provide better customer service. The customer is still the north star, but we can’t reach the stars without our workforce.”

For more insights from Dr. Shannon Rogers and other specialists involved in the study, read the breakthrough with empathy report here.

Lead photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash