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SUPPLIER FROM PLUTO, CUSTOMER IN ANOTHER SOLAR SYSTEM

Borrowing from a recent article in the Nat Post Business Section (that applies the standard Mars/Venus equational imbalance), about a book called “Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy”, penned by Business Strategist Dev Patnaik, also founder and chief exec of Jump Associates, adviser to businesses on growth strategies:

“Companies often hinder their success by focusing too narrowly on selling products and not on their customers’ actual needs.” ibid.

He has written a book about a concept he describes as the ’empathy gap’ between employees and the customers they serve. Well, that saves me the trouble.

Dev specifies the gap as a chasm between employees in organizations and the people (customers?). I wonder if the euphemism was derived from actual experience of shopping at The Gap?

Not wanting to put the onus entirely on employees I was relieved to see he spoke of “Companies stamping out customer empathy” within their staff and then being “surprised when their employees make poor decisions or try to sell things that their customers don’t need.”

From the interview (attached) it comes as a fairly rudimentary exercise in customer-centric marketing. I haven’t bought it, so I can’t recommend it, but it is all grist to the mill.

But I want to deepen the thought: he describes the growth of a business as a cause, as success moves the stakeholders away from the products that they produce. What elastic band magnate uses the same product to hold up his socks? Not like the old days when he couldn’t afford socks with lycra built in (not a real example in the book).

Question: is there a lack of integrity in the staff of a business that does not use its own product? If they use a competitive product then the answer would be “Yes.” If you work for Chrysler and you don’t drive their wheels then you won’t think too much of customers that roll up with a Dodge Hemi under the hood. But if the employees are not users of that product, then there is no reason for the lack of empathy. I doubt that manufacturers of prosthetics are all missing body parts, yet they probably care more than most about how the customers feel using their products.

Empathy with the customer has to be defined within the culture of an organization, not at a product level. In fact it doesn’t have to be product relevant. The manufacturer of women’s hosiery doesn’t have to wear the product, (if he is not accustomed to pantyhose). He/She just has to understand the problems that wearers of such products have to deal with in the context of: warmth, protection, comfort, appearance, climate, U/V rays, skin sensitivity, ease of putting on/removing, durability and budget. That puts hosiery on the same plane as global warming. I am in no doubt that, in the microcosm of daily frustrations with women’s hosiery, there are issues that are scalable to global warming. This is what we can call ‘empathy’. I don’t know if the author of the book goes so far to say so. But, it should be, from the CEO down to the photocopy worker, that empathy is ingrained. That way a customer might actually believe in the advertising.

Otherwise you might as well be as far removed from the Sun as Pluto and wondering why your customer is orbiting a different solar system.

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Jon Sherrington

Owner, Strategist, Writer – Hydrogen Creative Inc.

May 1996 – Present

My role is to provide strategic marketing guidance to clients to ensure their objectives are attainable, remain in focus and the communications solutions work.

My expertise is in how to realign goals-oriented brands, products, services or businesses to customer values to build loyalty, frequency and continuity.