The business of tomorrow starts with customer empathy
The business of tomorrow starts with customer empathy

The business of tomorrow starts with customer empathy

Empathy and profits are not usual bedfellows. Particularly in the age of multinationals and monopolies. In this new digital era, we come full circle to the fundamental human value of empathy as means to creating great experiences and thriving business. That’s why Airbnb, in just ten years, is worth as much as Hilton and Hyatt – combined after 100 years.

How did Airbnb disrupt the Hospitality industry? And why is this change happening so quickly?

Well, it starts with the fact that “choice” and media are now abundant. This means people can break free of traditional monopolies and find new products and services.

Consumers enjoy an average of over 12 hours of media per day. After a good night sleep, that doesn’t leave much else.

This flood of media is born of the new age in which we live. We have departed the industrial age, and we have come full throttle into the exponential information age.

Software is eating the world

Thanks to the microprocessor, computers, and the internet we now enjoy hundreds of channels, apps, and way too much (low quality) content anywhere, anytime.

And it’s software that’s delivering this flood of choice, content, and clicks. In fact, according to Marc Andreessen, “Software is eating the world.”

Need proof? Just compare these competing companies from different eras:

  • Airbnb ($30B, 10yrs) v Hilton/Hyatt ($29B, 100yrs)
  • HBO v Netflix
  • Uber v Ford
  • Skype v AT&T
  • Facebook v New York Times

interior photoIt’s the Graphic User Interface (GUI), or the “front end,” that we see on screens when using our laptops and mobiles. The GUI is the moment where engineering steps back and lets human behaviors take the lead. Without a human-friendly interface, hard earned coding and engineering efforts are put to waste.

The interface has been propelled into a business critical conduit between companies and customers. The modern day shop front and cashier.

And a good interface starts with humans. Some call it “user experience” or “design thinking.” In the end, it’s about creating a viable, profitable product that people love.

How does Airbnb do it?

Airbnb puts user experience at the center of its business. Because they know the only asset they have is trust. No one will open their doors to strangers unless there is a high degree of trust.


A well-designed reputation system is key for building trust.

JOE GEBBIA, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Airbnb


Airbnb puts the user’s needs and emotions at the center of its design practice. Here are some things they do to build trust:

  • Curated listings to ensure quality
  • Beautiful photos to showcase a home
  • Objective reviews that build confidence

Look at how they discovered the right number of reviews for a listing.

Airbnb maximises design with transparency and immediacy. You can read more at Airbnb.

Do your customers trust your product or service? Have you taken the time to understand their needs?

Perhaps you need to boost your customer empathy today if you want to thrive tomorrow.

Catch me at the Design Thinking Forum in Bucharest (Sept 21, 2017, at Impact Hub) where I will talk more about these topics.

About the author
Mike is the Head of Innovation at QUALITANCE. He’s passionate about emerging technologies and experience design. Over his award-winning career, he’s worked on big innovation and marketing projects for Nike, Levi’s, Xbox, GE and many others.

Watch our blog section for the next weeks! We’ll regularly be posting about design thinking and innovation. In the next blog piece by Mike Parsons, you’ll find out the shift that entrepreneurs must understand. Stay tuned!