I believe the critical skill required of any good marketer is the ability to think like a customer, as opposed to hoping the customer thinks like them. Many other experts also stress the need to think like a customer. While I have always known this was hard, new research suggests it is even harder.
The March 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review, has a brief discussion of research conducted by some folks at Imperial College, which suggests that “putting yourself in the customer’s shoes doesn’t work.”
Their research found that the more people focused on being customer empathetic, the worse they were at it. One might argue that this was an artificial experiment, but my unscientific observational research over the years suggests that many are sure they think like a customer, when in fact they are actually of the belief the customer thinks as they do.
The researchers actually concluded that attempting to empathize with the customer does not work. So my conclusion from all this is that thinking like a customer is different from empathizing with the customer.