Winners of the Amplify Empathy Challenge

In my post on customer experience trends for this year, I named 2014 as “The Year of Empathy.” Empathy is a critical component to any customer experience effort. To help ignite the discussion on this important topic, we launched the Amplify Empathy Challenge as part of the overall Amplify Empathy Movement.

We asked people to share how they’ve raised customer empathy within their organizations and Temkin Group committed to awarding up to $2,500 for the best ideas. We had a number of great submissions, which made it hard to decide, but we selected the five winners below (all receiving a $500 Amazon.com gift certificate). We added the titles to their entries, but the rest of the description is exactly what they submitted on the Amplify Empathy site.

The bottom line: Keep finding ways to #AmplifyEmpathy within your organization!

Amplify Empathy Winners

Here are submissions from the five Amplify Empathy winners:

Empathy Mapping in Workshops

Aaron Cooper, Customer Experience Architect, Prime Therapeutics

“I integrated empathy mapping into cross-functional design workshops, focused on generating customer-centered ideas to inform redesign of experiences within digital channels.

These workshops were hosted in a main corporate office, and brought directly to stakeholders via an on-site session at one of our call center locations. This was an excellent way to build empathy across the business, by bringing the opportunity directly to key team members.

Each team in a design workshop was composed of 4-5 people – a mix of developers, system analysts, business leads, customer experience professionals, call center agents and other team members. Each team was given two scenarios, based on one of our five personas. The scenarios provided a description of the persona, their context, needs, specific tasks and “how might we” statements to stimulate thinking. The workshops were structured as a series of rapid sketching sessions, kicked off by empathy mapping before sketching began for each persona’s scenario.

During empathy mapping, each team member contributed real, recent customer experiences. Call center agents offered particularly rich descriptions of customer thoughts, feelings, statements and actions (Think, Say, Feel, Do) to feed the conversations. Directly after empathy mapping, teams individually and collaboratively sketched, then reviewed and consolidated concepts, then voted on ideas. I tied the idea voting directly to customer experience metrics (eg. ease of doing business – see Forrester), plus a colored dot for “breakthrough idea, if…” to emphasize ideas that had innovative characteristics. By weaving key performance indicators into voting, very early in the design process, team members had another way to evaluate the efficacy of ideas.

Results:

While I have experience planning and participating in design thinking workshops which are very successful in generating ideas, I had never seen empathy mapping directly woven into a workshop process like this.

Positioning empathy mapping and persona discussion directly in front of each scenario design challenge enabled participants to step into our customer’s shoes – to guide sketching and development of ideas. This created an environment that was truly customer-centered.

As I facilitated the workshops I heard team members saying, “Sure, but how would that help {Persona Name Here}?”, or, “I understand that’s a technology constraint, but let’s explore this more, because it could really help {Persona Name Here}.” Everyone, from project managers and system analysts to business leads and designers, was focused on our customer’s needs.

The strengthened empathy not only informed ideation during each workshop, but it persisted after the workshops and into daily working relationships and conversations. Since I included people from various teams in the workshop, that empathy was carried throughout the business.

The ideas elicited from these empathy-filled workshops led to designs that have increased efficiency of our customers (as shown in usability testing) and built a palpable connection between our teams and the voices of our customers.”

Empathy Board Workshops

Diane Stover Hopkins, Innovation Strategy Executive, Beacon Health System

“A very effective approach I’ve tried is what I call EMPATHY BOARD Workshops. I gather front line staff and we share some of the not so positive feedback we’ve received from customers/patients. We summarize how the bad experiences illustrate that some staff have lost site of who exactly they are serving. I then develop sample patient personas of someone who’s a patient and what they may be hoping/fearing/expecting at the hospital. In small groups they work with these scenarios and ideate around ways they could DELIGHT this person in this situation. The group shares their ideas and I facilitate discussions around how do we exceed their expectations first and then exceed the imagination as our ultimate goal. The ideas are tested and share after the workshops to see which can be authentically delivered.

Often the empathy scenarios bring staff to tears and once I have connected their emotion(heart) to their intelligence (brain), i have a direct path to behavior change and commitment. After the workshops the Empathy patient scenarios with photos and quotes are formatted into a poster and placed in back stage staff areas to serve as constant reminders of the people in their care and all they may be dealing with. The heading of the posters is WHO WILL YOU DELIGHT TODAY?

Management and frontline staff have expressed enthusiastic appreciation for the eye-opening approach and “Would you recommend scores, for areas continue to go up in areas that stick to this program. The bottom-line is that sometimes we must re-introduce our staff to the customer’s they’re serving in a more personal way since day to day business sometimes leads all of us to forget.”

Self-Reflective Empathy Class

Kristi Roe, Director-The Patient Experience, Carolinas Healthcare System

“We at Carolinas Healthcare System are amplifying empathy! I work in the Patient Experience department, and empathy is the foundation of patient centered care. We are the 2nd largest not-for profit healthcare organization in the country: 900 care locations across North Carolina and South Carolina with over one million patient encounters annually. So when we started our “empathy journey” it felt like a daunting charge! How to engage all of our teammates, from environmental services, to physicians, to billing, to administration in an empathy movement.

First, a powerful video was made by our learning and development specialist Debi Dollar. It was to the song “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. The video exemplified how we need to see ourselves in the eyes of the patient, and that every interaction, even as small as giving someone directions, needed to be empathic. Patients are scared, anxious, and live in a world of uncertainty. We need to be cognizant of their reality, and in turn respond to them in a nurturing and understanding way. The video is remarkable and is a great demonstration of what empathy is, and how we can operationalize it throughout out system. It has been a powerful tool in engaging our teammates.

Next we set out to build an empathy experience. Some might think of it as a class, but it is much more than that. A four hour experience was created that takes participants through a journey on empathy. From self reflection, to prejudices and biases we might have, and finally to staying connected to purpose, this experience serves as our foundational class for all new teammates to attend to learn about our culture, and for existing teammates to participate in. The class has many powerful learning activities, but one of the most impactful is the discussion of a picture of a homeless man. We show the photo and ask for the feelings it arouses in our participants. Then we go on to tell his story, which is one of tragedy and loss, and it shows how we can never truly know what a person has endured and therefore need to have compassion in all of our encounters…even when someone might not seem open to it.

The class is called A is for Empathy. The title reflects our Acknowledgement of Empathy…and that we need to acknowledge our patients AND teammates in an empathic way, every encounter, every person, every time.”

Spend the Day as a Customer

Lisa Henken-Ramirez, Vice President, Customer Experience, NetSpend, a TSYS Company

“NetSpend is a prepaid debit card provider, so our customers a hard-working Americans with little extra time for complicated processes or long waits. We amplify empathy by walking in our customers footsteps.

To make sure our entire company understands the realities our customers face, we ask all of our employees from our CEO to our Customer Service Agents to spend a day walking in the footsteps of our customers. We divide the company into cross-functional teams of ten so that our employees have to work with people in other departments that they don’t know.

We give each team a check for $400, bus passes and a list of challenges that represent the challenges our customers most often face. The teams take public transportation to cash the check and buy a NetSpend prepaid debit card. Then the teams use the card to pay it forward, buying groceries for a family, paying bills for someone, filling up gas tanks. They meet a customers, see our processes like account opening, activation and card usage from our customer’s perspective and get to know each other.

At the end of the event, the teams are exhausted from running all over town, fulfilled from giving to people and much more understanding of our customers and the challenges they face. The teams always come back with great ideas for improvements to our customer experience. We call it Community Connect because it allows our employees to connect to our community of customers.

http://www.tsys.com/About/HeartofTSYS/community-connect-netspend.cfm

Customers For Life Contest

A Lee Massaro

“Let me count just a few of the ways in 2014:

  1. We ran a contest on how employees created customers for life, and then made a moving ten minute video featuring these wonderful employees telling their stories and mixed them with the customers who were wowed by beautiful demonstrations of empathy. The video was shown at various leadership meetings, shared with employees and has become part of new employee orientation.
  2. We created a series of playful two minute training modules that are spread region wide every two weeks. These videos highlight how to use empathy in all types of different situations with customers; these are interspersed with modules encouraging self-care which demonstrate empathy for our employees! This combination has proven to really engage staff members!
  3. We do live trainings with lots of role playing and coaching – we invented the “empathy speed round” where each participant hears a statement and has to respond first with empathy before they go on to apologize for or fix the situation. A lively way to practice and bring empathy to top of mind.
  4. We work with leaders to develop empathy for their people first, so that they can be better coaches for bringing empathy out of their employees.

And that’s just on our little Education team – lots of other work happening with our complaint resolution folks, customer insight groups, and others. Most importantly, we strive to walk the empathy walk every day.”

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
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, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding 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 Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

One Response to Winners of the Amplify Empathy Challenge

  1. Focalscope says:

    providing a fast response regarding customer concerns definitely is a plus of empathy.

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