Knowing how to optimize business processes and technology only takes companies so far. Success in volatile environments requires learning how to apply data compassionately in response to new opportunities and risks.
Just about everyone has encountered automated telephone response systems and experienced the frustration of having to repeat voice commands multiple times before finally asking to speak to a service representative. It seems that many large companies have become so focused on optimizing their business processes and systems that they have become all too willing to forget about cultivating emotional connections with customers. But as global business environments become less predictable, there are serious risks in putting too much emphasis on process and systems. In order to detect and respond to shifting customer needs, companies need to show more, not less, empathy with their customers. Some companies have found an approach that achieves that — one that joins three important capabilities: the ability to optimize business processes and technology, the ability to foster emotional connections and the ability to use data empathically. We call this approach softscaling. The empathic use of data enables companies to be, in effect, left-brained and right-brained simultaneously. The data provides the bridge that allows the rational (left side) to communicate with the emotional (right side). Consider what it does for Hero MotoCorp, a manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters, based in New Delhi, India, that until 2010 was partly owned by Honda Motor Company. Like other companies, Hero MotoCorp had a customer relationship management (CRM) system designed to track critical activities such as sales, service visits, spare part needs and other aspects of the customer experience. However, as effective as it was at monitoring the basic data, it didn’t show that the broad demographics of the market were shifting dramatically. Young women, who were entering India’s workforce in droves, were uncomfortable, even intimidated, about shopping for motor scooters. Some were concerned about how they would look astride a scooter. In response, the company designed a new product and a new program called “Just 4 Her,” with its own showrooms staffed by women. Female customers can view how they look on the scooter behind the privacy of a curtain.