Data is missing a heart: Why we need quantified empathy.

November 9, 2021 By: Mario Ciabarra

“Technology alone is not enough,” Steve Jobs once said in reference to why we need a marriage of art, humanities, and technology.

To paraphrase Jobs, we can also say that technology alone doesn’t make the customer experience better. We need to translate the empathy of face-to-face interactions to the customer experiences on our screens. 

If a store clerk sees someone struggling in a physical store, they have an immediate understanding of the customer’s struggle, which helps them build empathy. 

That’s not so easy in digital.

Humans are not just numbers on a graph. 

Until recently, companies have relied on quantitative tools to understand the digital customer experience. Teams spend hours gathering mounds of data and trying to make sense of it through dashboards, charts, and graphs.

But it turns out that charts and graphs don’t actually tell us that much about how people are interacting with our digital products. They don’t tell us how frustrated customers are when they are rage clicking on broken elements, scrolling aimlessly through confusing design, or hitting back buttons to nowhere. 

Somewhere along the way, however, many teams started to prioritize numbers over humans. 

Tools like session replay came along to address the gap. As you can probably guess from the name, session replay technology allows you to reproduce an individual’s experience on web or native mobile applications. 

The first time I watched a replay, it was pure beauty. The 1000th time, not so much. 

As I watched companies spend hours binge watching hundreds or thousands of low-fidelity replays and basically getting nowhere, I realized something was still missing. Replay might drive empathy and understanding, but the metadata behind it is what drives better decision-making.

We needed a way to combine the emotional connection (really, the shared pain) of watching a customer struggling – with the quantification of that struggle’s specific impact on business or revenue. In other words, show me what one user is experiencing, and then quantify the impact to the rest of my users. That’s what I call empathy at scale.

This is how we came up with the term “quantified empathy.”

Quantified Empathy is analytics with heart. It enables you to empathize with an individual customer experience and then assess the magnitude of that experience at scale. It’s the process of humanizing otherwise impersonal data.

Stories of quantified empathy.

More and more large enterprises are using quantified empathy to solve real world problems for their customers.

At Virgin Voyages (part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group), quantified empathy has been pivotal in helping the organization identify problems faster.  Just a few years ago, companies like Virgin Voyages would only learn about digital glitches when there was a huge drop in revenue or through call center complaints. By then, it’s too late. Your customers have gone elsewhere.

With the help of session replay and quantitative analytics, Virgin Voyages has embraced quantified empathy. Now, their digital team can see and understand in real time why a traveler is struggling on their digital platform, and then quantify how many others have the same issue.

Home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond leverages quantified empathy techniques to streamline and improve their customer experience at every level. Before, they relied on abstract funnels and clickstream data to optimize the website checkout process. 

Today, they can watch visual evidence of customer frustration in real time and take action accordingly. Most recently, this resulted in reducing checkout from seven steps to three. Watching customers struggle through replay and quantification helped Bed Bath & Beyond empathize with them, size the problem and address this digital friction. Embracing quantified empathy has helped their team think through how to build and design products. 

3 habits of Continuous Product Design.

But to be truly customer-centric, you need more than just quantified empathy. In fact, this is just one of the 3 habits of Continuous Product Design (CPD), a methodology for companies to align disparate business and technical teams around building products that matter to customers.

The 3 habits of CPD include:

  • Proactive Discovery – intelligent, automated detection of customer behaviors, intents, and struggles 
  • Quantified Empathy – visual evidence of customers experiences and quantify their impact at scale
  • Customer-Centric Prioritization – fast, cross-team alignment around a single version of customer-centric truth


If your digital teams are able to consistently practice these 3 habits, you’ll start seeing positive business outcomes and higher customer satisfaction.

Are your analytics missing quantified empathy?

An ancient proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

This proverb rings true with so many businesses today. As companies try to move faster with production and release cycles, they are often doing so at the expense of their customer. They soon realize the organizational friction around data silos is actually slowing them down and impacting their ability to meet customer expectations.

With quantified empathy at the helm of your product decisions, you can move with speed and confidence. Everyone can agree and collaborate around a single version of truth and prioritize what matters to customers.

In other words, instead of just going fast, alone—quantified empathy can help you go fast, and far, together.

Interested in learning more about quantified empathy and discussing how to humanize digital? Join us at our annual conference, Quantum LEAP, in February 2022.

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