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A bunch of people hate it.

But of all the airports I’ve been to around the world, Philadelphia International is one of my favorites. It has earned my customer loyalty.

The reason comes down to one thing. The doors on the bathroom stalls open outward.

I’m easy to please, I know. But somewhere along the way, someone involved in design at the airport realized that most people who use the restrooms at the airport are traveling. And in the majority of cases, they are traveling with luggage.

And lugging around a suitcase is even more cumbersome when trying to enter a small space.

So every time I go to an airport and have to fumble my way with all my luggage into a restroom stall with a door that opens inward, I get frustrated.  Because I know that unlike at Philadelphia International, those in charge of design didn’t take the time to consider my plight as a traveler.

As the owner of your business, you’ve got to have enough empathy for your customers to design an experience for them that will make you their favorite as well. Instead of someone who frustrates them.

Why empathy is your secret weapon

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

A couple of months ago, at a workshop I was attending, Jon Morrow, CEO of Smart Blogger made this bold statement:

“The one who understands her audience the most wins.”

He was addressing a room of writers, but his advice is applicable for all business owners.

It doesn’t matter if you are creating content, producing products, or working to maximize the experience your customers have with your website, answering service, or in your store.

The better you understand and empathize with your customer, the more they will love, appreciate, and be loyal to you.

And of course, that’s what you want.

Because loyal customers buy more, tell others about you, and they cost less to service. And they are much more likely to overlook it during those times when you’re not quite at your best.

But you’ve got to earn that loyalty and devotion. And you do that by making sure you know your customer better than anyone else.

How to walk a mile in your customers’ shoes

Do your research. But not just one time. You’ve got to tune in to what your ideal customers are saying, doing, and feeling on a regular basis.

Here are a few great ways to uncover that information:

  • Read Amazon.com reviews
  • Read Blog, social media, and forum comments
  • Have conversations in-person and/or over email
  • Conduct surveys
  • Observe the actions they take

I recently worked on an ideal buyer persona for a client in the weight loss niche. I used some of the techniques above, and was able to find an abundance of great insights to help inform my client’s approach to serving her customers.

Check out these insights I gleaned for my client from a combination of some of the sources noted above:

“I’m still 13 pounds from the very top of the healthy BMI range for my height, but people still tell me “oh you don’t need to lose weight!” Part of me knows they are just trying to be nice, but it feels like a form of sabotage. Like, ‘don’t lose weight, stay fat like the rest of us.’ That might be unfair, but that’s how it comes across sometimes.”

“Last year I quit logging from October until January. That was a bad plan, I gained about 10 lbs. This year I’m going to keep logging and I’m going to try to get to the gym more. I’ll still indulge in treats and on Thanksgiving I probably won’t worry about logging everything so I can just focus on spending time with family. Christmas I will have to log because there are just too many sweets and I could go overboard really fast.”

“Too much work, Weight Watchers! Make your recipes more simple!”

By getting these very honest glimpses into what your audience experiences, you’ll be in a better position to empathize and develop solutions that address their most pressing issues.

How to organize what you learn

The challenge with data is that sometimes you can have so much, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to use it. When I first did this exercise for my own business, I ended up with more than forty pages of information!

To prevent you from having a whole lot of insight and not being sure about what to do with it, organize your information in an easy to digest format.

The process I like to use (hat tip to Jon Morrow again), is organizing the information into a Dreams & Desires, Fears & Frustrations table.

Here’s what that could look like based on the three quotes from above:

“I’m still 13 pounds from the very top of the healthy BMI range for my height, but people still tell me “oh you don’t need to lose weight!” Part of me knows they are just trying to be nice, but it feels like a form of sabotage. Like, ‘don’t lose weight, stay fat like the rest of us.’ That might be unfair, but that’s how it comes across sometimes.”

Dreams & Desires: To feel supported from my friends and family in my weight loss journey

Fears & Frustrations: I hate it when people tell me I don’t need to lose weight. It feels like a form of sabotage like they don’t want me to lose weight.

“Last year I quit logging from October until January. That was a bad plan, I gained about 10 lbs. This year I’m going to keep logging and I’m going to try to get to the gym more. I’ll still indulge in treats and on Thanksgiving I probably won’t worry about logging everything so I can just focus on spending time with family. Christmas I will have to log because there are just too many sweets and I could go overboard really fast.”

Dreams & Desires: To maintain my weight during the holiday season

Fears & Frustrations: Holidays provide a lot of temptation that makes it really easy for me to go overboard with my eating

“Too much work, Weight Watchers! Make your recipes more simple!”

Dreams & Desires: To maintain healthy habits during special occasions and when there’s a break in my routine

Fears & Frustrations: I hate it when healthy recipes are too complicated or too much work to complete

Ideally, you would get enough insights to be able to populate at least 50 Dreams & Desires, and 50 Fears & Frustrations.

If that seems like a lot, remember, you can’t know your customers too well. 🙂

After organizing your list, the next step is to identify the major themes.

Just from looking at the insights from above, there are three that stick out:

  • Need for support during weight loss journey
  • Maintaining healthy habits
  • Simple solutions that work for busy schedules

When you organize your insights into themes, it will make it easy for you to tackle the areas that will make the biggest impact for your customers.

How to apply your insights in a meaningful way

All this knowledge won’t do you one bit of good if you don’t put it to use.

So let’s walk through how that could work using our weight loss example. Given the themes identified, my client could decide to do the following:

  • Develop a cookbook of healthy recipes that take 20-minutes or less to prepare
  • Create a Facebook group or private forum to provide ongoing community support during weight loss journey
  • Develop a Holiday Challenge accountability program to help stay on track with healthy habits when faced with tasty temptations
  • Write a blog with tips on how to ask for support from loved ones while working to engage in a new healthy lifestyle
  • Publish a video with how to make a delicious, healthy, dessert to bring to holiday gatherings (that won’t derail hard-fought progress)

Do you have any more suggestions?

It’s time for you to win with empathy

Your customers will appreciate that you get them. That you took the time to consider them. And that you provide solutions that make life better for them.

As a result, they’ll win with how you help them.

And you’ll win by earning their loyalty.

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