Barclay’s Bank wanted to create a more empathetic understanding of customers with mobility issues. In this video, a Barclay’s office manager is outfitted with a special suit designed to recreate the physical world of his own elderly Mother.
The suit includes weights that make it hard for the manager to take steps, or to raise his hands. Goggles dim his vision and cast a yellow light over the scene. Headphones distort his hearing. Electric sensors make him feel the pain of arthritis in his joints. In this way, the manager literally “walks in the shoes” of his mother – and every other Barclay’s customer with restricted mobility.
It becomes vividly clear to the manager that the service isn’t aligned to the needs of the mobility impaired. By living directly through the experience, he shows others within Barclays where the minefields lie for such customers. He helps the people who create forms and devices better understand the role of design, and the people who design the physical structures of the needs of those with impaired mobility.
Empathy can be experienced literally or through sensed experience
This example demonstrates the level of insight and response a brand can have based on experienced empathy. But not all empathy requires explicit experience of this sort. Indeed, it would be impossible to directly experience many types of customer experiences.
Sensed empathetic experiences play a role in optimizing replicable situations as in this Barclay’s story, as well as provide a way to bring empathetic understanding to situations that cannot be easily replicated.
Sensed experience is needed because a custom suit cannot, on its own, lead one to the new ideas and solutions that the empathetic experience can generate. This only comes through sensed experience – the ability to not only perceive another’s reality, but to imagine a new world that accurately addresses the pain points and emotional needs of your customers. For example, you may never be able to physically experience a customer service situation exactly as a frustrated customer might. But through sensed experience, empathy for the customer would show you how to better address the core issue of customer dissatisfaction, as well as the potential irritants residing within your customer service model.
Take a deep look inside
As always, perhaps the biggest hurdle to gaining a more empathetic understanding of others, is the giving up of your own unique perspective and experience. This isn’t always easy when your mind is full of business issues, problems, and opportunities. Mindfulness training can help you become more aware and alive, and therefore better able to embrace empathy in your daily work practices and brand strategy.
The capacity for empathy lies within you. By going deeper within yourself, you become better able to bring empathy to your decision-making, your innovation process, and to your leadership. Wear the suit of empathy and thrive.
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco branding agency.