Building Organizational Empathy: Perceive-Reflect-Adjust

Most people have an innate ability to be empathetic, but organizations tend to dampen this natural instinct. While a typical customer interaction cuts across many functional groups (a single purchase, for instance, may include contact with decisions by product management, sales, marketing, accounts payable, and legal organizations), companies push employees to stay focused on their functional areas. This myopic view is often reinforced by incentives focused on narrow domains, which creates a perceived chasm between customer empathy and employee success.

After examining much of the academic, medical, and business research on the topic of empathy, we developed a simple model for enhancing empathy that we call Perceive-Reflect-Adjust:

  • Perceive: Understand how someone else feels
  • Reflect: Examine how your actions affect those feelings
  • Adjust: Make changes to improve how someone else feels

P-R-A is a helpful model to follow for triggering individual empathy, but how can organizations apply P-R-A within their operations? By infusing it across the four customer experience core competencies:

Empathy4CompetenciesThe bottom line: Look for opportunities to Perceive, Reflect, and Adjust.

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

2 Responses to Building Organizational Empathy: Perceive-Reflect-Adjust

  1. Jeff Toister says:

    I really like this model. One note I’d suggest on perceive is we need to have a relatable experience in order to empathize with someone’s emotions. Smart companies help their employees do this by giving them a chance to be a customer. For example, some hotels have their associates stay there as a guest so they know what it’s like.

  2. Reblogged this on Optimizing Healing Healthcare and commented:
    In his blog, “Building Organizational Empathy: Perceive-Reflect-Adjust,” Bruce Temkin writes about a critical differentiating factor, namely, empathy — one’s ability to feel, understand and appreciate the experience of another. Because of the acute vulnerability associated with the majority of patient conditions and situations in healthcare, emotional intelligence of a hospital’s culture and its caregivers to perceive, reflect on and adjust to the felt-experiences of patients and their family members is essential. Why? Maya Angelou once wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    Creating a signature experience for our patients and their families at its most fundamental and basic level involves understanding how a patient and/or family member feels, examining our actions and how they affect the other and quickly and effectively making the necessary changes so as to improve how the patient/family member feels.

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