IDEO has developed a very good program to help companies get their employees to empathize with customers. If employees are not users of the product, customer empathy is always an ongoing challenge.
Harvard Business Review: To Get Employees to Empathize with Customers, Make Them Think Like Customers, 2018-Sep-28 by Erin Henkel and Adam Grant
What’s the best way to cultivate empathy? The standard answer is to spend more time with customers. For example, leaders at IBM, Medtronic, and Microsoft have sent their people out to meet customers and see their products in use. But recently at IDEO, we’ve been encouraging companies to go a step further. Instead of just getting to know the customer, we want employees to become the customer.
The idea is to create an embodied experience for employees, rather than just a conversation. People learn much more when they are physically engaged in an activity, not just talking about it. But you can’t just take employees through the actual customer experience. They already know it like the back of their hands; it’s too easy for them to get defensive and justify the way they already do things.
Instead, we bring people into different contexts — removed from typical day-to-day company operations — that can serve as a metaphor for what customers experience and therefore jolt employees into a more empathetic stance.