The Journey to Enlightened Empathy

There are always failures to be made when launching a new product or brand. In some ways, it’s frustrating to the founders that end up facing the reality of unforeseen circumstances or missed deadlines. In other ways, it’s part of the beauty of creating something new.

There is a great organic ebb and flow with every failure, because there comes success from learning something new and reassessing your goals (or your mindset).

On occasion while I’m driving, I enjoy listening to a podcast called How I Built This. I love listening to well-known entrepreneurs talk about their crazy, messy, and happy journeys to building successful brands.

One of my favorite stories of success from the podcast was an interview with Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb. In this episode, Joe talks about a concept he calls Enlightened Empathy (17:00-32:00). He refers to Enlightened Empathy as “seeing the world in a way that other people (e.g. customers) see it.”

“Bringing customer’s insights back, and combining them with your own design point of view, opens the opportunity to provide changes that create HUGE gaps of inefficiencies with products. Doings things that don’t scale are priceless because it allows us to think creatively about how to build a better product.”

To briefly recap, Joe talks about traveling to the cities where their product was most successful to interview their best customers. Through these interviews, they realized their product’s weaknesses. Once they knew where their weaknesses were, they knew where the best opportunities were to improve. Once customer experience was improved, their revenue gains increased dramatically, and they were finally able to get the investor attention that they were trying to get for months.

Lesson Learned? Investing in great customer experience means better gains in business.

At times, those activities may not seem to lend itself to immediate “results”. Often times, business owners attribute scaling to checkable lists and hyping up sales. I think this is a mistake when the focus should be on the problem that needs to be solved and the people it’s trying to serve.

If those activities aren’t focused on providing ultimate value for the customer, they may be a waste of time to sell and market.

For example, if you’re launching a product that hasn’t yet been reviewed by customers, you’re more than likely missing out on revenue and decreasing your overall brand equity.

Asking questions before a product is launched may be a better use of time. In terms of being productive from a traditional sense (checking things off of your list), this may be seen as slowing production down. In ultimate terms of scaling and revenue, customer loyalty, and brand awareness, this is your best use of time.

Clearly understanding your customer can help you change nuances of your brand experience, and will increase your engagement and conversion way ahead of your competition. A “non-scalable” activity well worth your time.


Now it’s your turn: How has your brand and customer experience been enlightened by listening to customers?


I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, and feedback in the comments below.

~ Christine