What's the Best Way to Build Empathy with your Customers?


It is now easier than ever for companies to communicate with their customers. In the same way that a simple “How are you?” can improve someone’s day, a text to a customer asking how he or she is liking the new product can help cement a relationship.


But how do you convey your brand values and personality effectively? And how do you choose the most effective channel for your company? Here’s a brief look at some of the key digital channels and how they can be used to build stronger relationships.


Sending a reminder that a delivery is due and giving the customer the option to change the delivery destination, or letting a customer know that an item they wanted is now in stock are all examples of great customer service and offer businesses the chance to be genuinely useful to customers. You’re adding value to previous transactions and winning brownie points at the same time – strengthening the relationship with your brand.

Much of this interaction can now be automated, making text a far more sophisticated method that you might at first think. And with open rates as high as 98%, it’s a platform that Marketers can’t ignore.


Apps can provide an excellent way for companies to capture customer data, and social media apps like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have been hoovering up our likes and dislikes, opinions and viewing habits for years.

But when companies create apps without thinking through what they are for or how they will benefit users, they end up unused.  Apps must be well designed and fulfil very specific customer needs if they are to be successful. That’s something we know a lot about!


Email gets a bad rap these days, with spam now accounting for more than half of all emails sent. [Source: Statista ]

People receive too many and about 13% are deleted before even being read, according to research by Return Path.

But they do offer superb marketing opportunities for companies who know how to personalise the content well and make it eye-catching and entertaining. That said, it’s harder to develop an interactive relationship when you’re unsure if your customers are going to read your messaging.


In the last few years there has been a lot of hype about chatbots – automated text-based helpers that pop up on company websites and in apps. The early versions of these were pretty dumb and impersonal. This was inevitable given that they haven’t had much time to learn from previous conversations.

The nature of machine learning is that it needs data – historical and current – to learn from, and masses of it. This involves lots of trial and error.  Natural language processing and speech recognition is improving rapidly with tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft leading the way. Artificial intelligence is helping systems work out that people ask the same question in many different ways but we’re still some way from the dream of fluent, intelligent digital assistants that can almost predict our needs.  That is not to say that these chatbots don’t have a future.  They may be the future.

Research published in November 2018 by CX Company found that 63% of customers are happy to be served by a chatbot, if there is an option to escalate the conversation to a human.  73% of people asked found that chatbots make the simpler tasks quicker and easier.  It is estimated by CX that 51% of customer enquiries can now be answered without any need for human intervention. 

Whilst it is clear that the majority of customers still want the human touch and someone to speak to, it is increasingly apparent that chatbots, if implemented correctly, will add value to the current customer service model.  The UK is trailing behind many countries, notably the US and Germany, in the use of chatbots but all the indicators are that this is soon to change. 


One advantage of responding to customers on social media is that you reach a much wider audience than simply your immediate customers and enhance your reputation even though you’re only responding sympathetically to a single customer. It is personal communication with an amplified effect.

However, if you’re only on Twitter and your customers are on Facebook, you may be missing out on the opportunity to communicate with them. With so many different platforms available, keeping up a presence can be time consuming. But given that the younger generations generally demand immediacy and transparency in their dealings with brands it’s something that companies will have to embrace.


Each communications channel has its good points and bad points, its associated costs and practical challenges. And it may well be that your company should be using them all.

But it’s the message rather than the medium that’s of paramount importance here. If you’re saying the wrong thing and alienating, rather than wowing, your customers, no channel will be the right one.

It’s essential to work out who you want to be and what you want to say first before deciding on the best way to get that message across.

Megan Dickie