Showing Empathy Towards Customers In The Wake of COVID-19

Displaying empathy towards customers has never been more necessary in the wake of COVID-19. Do you understand how your customers are feeling these days? Do you thoroughly understand? Or do you assume that they see things as you yourself do or as someone in your organisation guesses that they do? One of the challenges in times like this is that we can think everyone feels as we do. But they don’t. Even when we are not facing a crisis, we often assume that we totally understand our customers, imagining they think and feel as we do. But they don’t.

Here are five steps to showing empathy towards customers and relating to these customers in our current difficult times:


This is crucial. You are not your customer. You may think, because your “account team” or “customer service team” engages with your customers, your organisation empathises with them. This is far from the truth. Not only are the diverse perspectives that were present under normal conditions still important but, in a time of crisis, each person will have a particular set of anxieties related to the evolving changes: How will they protect themselves and their family from disease, economic insecurity and loss of educational and other opportunities? How can they help their children and elderly relatives cope? Will their job survive? Will their share portfolio recover? How can they maintain friendships and connections and look after their own and others’ mental health? The starting point to this step is realising that you need actively to put yourself in your customers’ shoes in all their diversity.


Ask open-ended questions to understand the breadth and depth of their feelings. A great word is “why”. Keep asking, “Why?”. It is amazing how this tiny word can lead your customers to share with you their inner thoughts and the depths of their feelings.

3. take time

There are no shortcuts when it comes to empathy towards customers. You cannot expect to empathise with your customers without genuine curiosity for their experience, asking many “Why?”s and listening carefully. The time you take in enacting empathy towards customers is an invaluable investment.

4. understand their jobs-to-be-done, gains & pains – they have changed

You may have developed personas for your clients some time ago and assume that the customer-experience you are offering today will be adequate in these troubled times. You will be wrong. The jobs-to-be done, the customer gains and pains have significantly shifted and will continue to do so. You need to reconfigure the customer experience journey for the changed conditions and possibly transform your products and services, gain creators and pain relievers appropriately and often.


Having understood your customers in their diversity and complexity and devised a value proposition for them that is truly empathetic, the smart leader will adopt a digital strategy to enable the full potential to be realised for all parties.

Empathy, trust and capability are essential for every significant human enterprise but empathy is the starting point. Trust will only grow where empathy is the modus operandi, and capability has no value unless an empathetic understanding has informed and inspired the products and services you offer your customers.

I urge you to not only deploy the five steps above, but to also establish a customer strategy to ensure that you and your organisation relate to your customers with empathy. It will make all the difference.

For further information regarding how to implement customer empathy and a customer strategy into your organisation, contact: 

Jeffrey Tobias

empathy towards customers, Showing Empathy Towards Customers In The Wake of COVID-19

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