How empathy can lead to better products and customer experiences. A Q&A with Ross Wainwright

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Alida CEO Ross Wainwright shares why listening to customers and employees can help take a company to the next level.

Russell: Your product is really this idea of embedding the voice of the customer in the corporate decision-making process. Why is this more important than ever right now for Canadian businesses?

Ross Wainwright: When I talk to C-level executives across Canada, the two things that they will continue to invest in are cybersecurity and customer experience management software. But I think what's interesting right now is that [businesses] can't afford not to get it right the first time. Whether you're building a product or servicing your customers and your customers' needs, their sentiments are changing every single day. We talk about time to insights or the importance of how quickly you can get to the heart of the matter as you build a product or evolve your brand or customer experience.

This is the right technology at the right time to help companies during a tougher economic environment. Our AI-driven engine really helps to not just get into the hearts and minds of the customers that matter the most, but then package it up for the demographic that is most important, whether it be the young kids, people in their late twenties, the millennials, or whether it be the baby boomers. Our technology is really designed to provide that feedback in a segmented format through the power of these communities.

Russell: You said you believe that the best business decisions in the world are made with customers, but not for customers. What does that mean to you?

Ross Wainwright: This really touches on this concept of empathy. If we put the customer in the heart of how we want to run our business and really listen to them, good things will happen. If you listen, they will tell you. Similarly, I think if you really embrace and provide empathy through the challenges our employee base has gone through over the last couple of years, they will be more engaged and happier, they'll be inspired, and they, in turn, will take better care of our customers. I think tech companies need more empathy. I think the business world and the communities we live in need more empathy.

Russell: What are some of the hurdles impeding corporate clients from being able to listen to their customers?

Ross Wainwright: We believe today that only a quarter of the feedback that is pulled together is put into action to help make a business decision. You know, how we get a survey for everything we do. There's survey fatigue at the end of the day. Mostly because you provide feedback, but then there's no closed loop. You don't see any change. Only between one and two percent of people respond to surveys. It's very low.

It’s better when we build a community. Let's say you're a Lexus customer. You love your vehicle, and you believe in the brand. When we ask you to be part of the community, your message is, "Of course I'll be part of the community," because you believe in the brand. When we send you a survey, because you're a Lexus guy and part of that community, the response rate is between 40 and 60 percent. The quality of the feedback is better. "I had a great experience because you welcomed me," or "I didn't have a great experience because you told me you'd wash my car before I leave and the car was filthy." Now there's a closed loop. Lexus will benefit. You will be happier because they're listening to you.

Russell: Is there a risk that you only hear from the brand loyalists, and the neutral people sitting on the fence don't have a voice?

Ross Wainwright: We have 176 million people on our platform at any time. It's such a broad sample size that there'll be some bias that they will love the product, but people can be equally passionate about the product but equally constructive or constructively critical about how to build a better product. The Canadian market is particularly engaged. We're not apathetic. If we don't like it, we'll tell you. We care. We want our dollar to go to something that's going to add value. And if it's not right, we want it fixed. And our technology really fits well for the Canadian market for that reason.

Russell: Are you listening to your employees like you're listening to your customers? How does that work?

To learn about how strong, employee-focused corporate cultures can help win the marathon for talent, listen to the episode here:

Ross' transcript has been slightly altered in this Q&A for clarity and brevity.