Advancement in digital and automation technology means that the world has become more interconnected and transparent in ways that we never imagined, giving businesses the opportunity to hit the 'rewind button' and re-imagine how they deliver customer value. Perhaps this time businesses can create an environment where their employees and customers feel equally respected and have their needs met in a wonderful and timely manner.
Whilst digital technology capabilities such as real-time analytics and process automation remain important when building a digital operation, it's also important to note that the vital key to making the business operation work better than before is the ability to truly understand the needs of the business, employees, and customers, by putting ourselves in their shoes. This can sound simple, however, when you look at it from an organisations perspective embedding empathy into systems and processes is not an easy task.
The ability to process more data in a more intelligent way, to better understand the needs of the business, employees, and customers, means that businesses are now empowered to develop personalized solutions, with the result being that employees and customers feel more appreciated and valued.
This article provides some context on how Digital Operations can help people refocus on empathy - the key to providing seamless operational experience.
Why is it necessary for organisations to refocus on empathy?
Empathy is a cornerstone of human behavior and has long been considered innate. As infants, we all had the capacity to perceive how others were feeling and what they were experiencing. However, a recent research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Review (PSPR) has shown that empathy levels have been declining over the past 30 years.
Empathy has been a survival skill that we have nurtured since the beginning of time, that has helped us to collaborate, cooperate and evolve over the years. It's very interesting to learn that this new wave of digital technology innovations that are changing the way employees interacts with each other to deliver customer value, require us to tap into empathy - one of our deepest and most challenging human characteristics. By opening up our minds to the realities of other people, we can better understand their thoughts, feelings, and actions, and develop digital solutions that meet their explicit and implicit needs.
Business leaders are now talking about empathy as one of the key attributes that they are looking for when hiring new staff. That is because advancement in digital and automation technologies means that organisations can now provide very personalized solutions, service or product, which requires empathy to pull off successfully.
We all like to think of ourselves as empathetic people who care about those around us and have no problem putting the interests of others ahead of our own. In reality, though, today's workplace is an increasingly busy environment where employees or managers are often bombarded by numerous emails, phone calls, reports, notifications and messages throughout the day, which means that there is not a lot of room for empathizing with people on a regular basis. However, with the advancement in digital and automation technology employees and managers can now request for personalized solutions or service that can free up some time so that they can focus on interacting with each other and the customers to address their needs in a timely manner.
How are businesses refocusing people on empathy?
Empathetic people are often very curious by nature and are not afraid to ask questions to learn more about the work environment and the realities of people who work in that environment. So empowering such people with the right data, tools, and applications means that they can now research and satisfy their curiosity faster than ever before. By providing seamless access to data and information, organisations can remove the fear of the unknown and start to encourage employees to immerse themselves in empathy to understand emotions and solve business problems.
As intelligent systems such as real-time analytics, robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) takes an increasingly central place in business operations, creating a holistic view of the customer and automating business processes, employees are now free to add greater value in addressing complex customer requests, and providing the level of empathy required to meet the needs of the business and customer.
The rise of intelligent systems in business operations leads us to question how well business objectives and processes are understood by employees, and how employees can be empowered to be more empathetic towards the needs of each other, the business and customer?
Businesses are now deploying new process automation solutions to further streamline their business processes so that the delivery of business value will require less human effort. To be able to achieve this objective, it is important to first have a good understanding of what the business considers as value. Empathy can be applied at this stage to understand the needs of the business and if those needs are being met by existing business processes, systems, people and applications. If the needs of the business have shifted empathy is required to ensure that any business process change requirement is implemented in an agile, innovative and collaborative fashion, without much resistance.
For example, before any process automation project can commence empathy is required when interviewing different stakeholders to understand their end to end process to identify pain points, risks, assumptions, and dependencies associated with that process. Getting the interview questions right is important but it's not all that is required. Body language and rapport are just as important for building trust and getting deeper insight. This also involves observing everyone that is part of that business process while they are completing their task to understand what they do. In general, when we observe we listen to what people care about as they interact with each other, systems and applications that they use to complete their daily tasks. Immersing in empathy by walking a mile in the shoes of those whose processes are to be automated is required to ensure that there is alignment between their needs and that of the business.
Today, a number of businesses are now empowering their employees with the ability to master problem-solving and understand how to create value through a process known as Design Thinking.
Being empathetic is one of the most important skills that one can have in this digital era, so companies need to understand the importance of empathy, and put it front and centre of their business operation.
By drawing on advanced data analytics, and automating processes at scale, organisations can gain a better insight into their operation from their massive data lakes to build a flexible and more predictable business model.
Putting ourselves in other peoples’ shoes may not come naturally or easily, but managers and experience strategists should factor a lot more empathy into the design of business systems, processes and culture.
Empathy is where the fuel for the fourth industrial revolution will come from. It has the power to take businesses to new heights and there will never be a better time to embed it directly into every aspect of companies digital strategy. Having the ability and confidence to do that will ultimately increase value for businesses and society at large.
With so much competition, customer expectations are rapidly changing, so being able to offer a tangible, emotional connection when addressing business problems is what can truly set companies apart.
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