If you felt like brands were getting to know you better in 2017, imagine living in a world where being understood was the most valued expectation from a brand. In other words, creating the ultimate customer experience, one that understands you, the consumer.
In 2018, empathy will be at the core of an ecosystem that supports the customer experience.
The health consumer—whether a patient, caregiver, nurse, physician’s assistant, payer, or physician—will be experiencing things more contextually. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be the foundational underpinning that will optimize our communications at just the right points, both virtually and live. Up till now, AI and big data have allowed a certain level of customization based on understanding consumers. As we move forward, we will know even more about them and be able to create ideas and customer experiences that touch them in more meaningful ways, leveraging data to help fuel the big idea. And this isn’t really a surprise as we have demanding customers, and we also have new types of technologies that help understand them better.
Here are five ways that empathy will drive creativity:
1. Empathy by design. I habitually challenge every creative to walk in the shoes and experience the plight of the customer that you’re creating for. Also, make sure you mine the data around this experience to help draw even more conclusions than what you experienced personally. Once you feel the challenge and also determine how others will feel it, you can design experiences that have emotional resonance and that fill the unmet needs of your customer. That’s the gap that needs closing. Your empathy and understanding enhanced by data can help close it. But only if you take the time to experience it and read between the data lines. Designs that are empathic will have a greater ability to change behavior because they connect people and brands.
2. Empathy from data. The more we learn about and understand our customers, the more personal and human our creative solutions can be. Often the data that can seem overwhelming can uncover a human truth, or a unique and richer insight that was missed because everyday understanding might only touch the surface of a subject. We cannot underestimate the power behind what data can expose and offer for ideation and design. Understanding universal truths along with subtleties about your customer, and applying this understanding to idea generation offer tremendous fodder for designing more meaningful customer experiences. The future of our industry will be defined by how creatively we use data. Because data, along with empathy, will be at the core of every customer experience that we design.
3. Empathy through feeling experiences. If you want to really understand someone’s health circumstance, walk in their shoes through a virtual experience where you can simulate an environment of illness to feel their pain. Virtual reality (VR) continues to advance with the ability to create truly immersive virtual environments (IVE) that can document any kind of experience. If we ponder the applications of VR in healthcare, they are vast. We have the ability to design immersive health experiences, from multiple customer perspectives, for an individual to experience as well as a group. The collective experience offers the power for a group to simultaneously feel something together. Sharing the experience with family, friends, or colleagues can enhance the emotion and make it more memorable.
4. Empathy with humanized devices. Not all devices are created equal. But the devices that stand out are the ones that not only solve a real customer challenge like compliance, but also are customer-centric. They feel the plight of their consumer and create an experience that makes the customer feel understood and heard. When designed well with humanization in mind, health tech and devices have the power to meaningfully change and upend behavior because they get how to motivate their end user. And that’s because the devices were created with empathy.
5. Empathy that understands context. We live in a time where we can truly control where and how we communicate. 2018 will take this to the next level, with contextual content being increasingly served up at point of need. Customers have needs, and brands need to find ways to fulfill them. The idea of contextualizing content is a way to meld ideas and channels when the customer needs information most. Contextual content is a great way for a brand to meet a customer’s need, as well as demonstrating empathy in action.
2018 will be the year of empathy. Not only will it offer a way to feel someone’s pain or challenge, it will be a way for creatives to create and design experiences that get under the hood and understand what might be required to engage with customers. Empathy will offer a sharper lens into how best to design an experience with greater context and relevance for all kinds of customers. And it will also provide another method of ideation for creatives offering a more human approach to creative problem solving.