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empatiX Consulting – a Modern Strategy, Insights and Activation Consultancy for the Healthcare, Financial Services and Technology Industries

Brian Cruikshank


empatiX Consulting


Brian Cruikshank


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor

CEOCFO Magazine

Published – October 25, 2021

CEOCFO: Mr. Cruikshank, you are cofounder at empatiX Consulting; what inspired the company and what is your actual functional role with it?

Mr. Cruikshank: I founded the business with my business partner, Jess Horkan, late last year. Both of us have research analytics and consulting experience spanning over 25 years. I have been in different organizational structures in much larger market research analytics consulting businesses over the course of my career. I spent a long time at Ipsos and ran a number of different businesses there and then joined ORC International, which became ENGINE Insights, and led that business in the US for a period of time and Jess was the leader in a number of the verticals that we supported, healthcare and financial services being two very prominent verticals.

The impetus for us starting the business was we saw a continued shift in the amount of data clients were capturing and getting access to. The proliferation of technology in what has been termed Research Tech or ResTech, so technology that clients can use to obtain customer experience feedback and feedback on their audiences of interest. We saw that trend morph over time and we were coming from organizations that had big infrastructure, big call centers, big online panels to obtain feedback. Those are still important modes of getting the feedback, but we really saw the opportunity to help clients with the data that they were already capturing, curate and supplement with different feedback but not have to support the big data collection infrastructure. Clients were turning to more flexible models to support the insights function.

We saw an opportunity from a research standpoint to help them with the data and the feedback that they were getting as well as connecting it to other elements of their business. Those would include the strategy and future state they were trying to drive toward and supporting their activation efforts. What are some of the things that they were planning to do from a design standpoint, from a user experience standpoint? A lot of those pieces are in different siloes in the organization and those elements were starting to come together. We were helping clients with their customer experience Cx and designing their user experience or Ux. Bringing these pieces together in more of a modern insight and strategy consultancy was an opportunity in the market. There has never been a more exciting time in the insights and analytics space and we have been thrilled to bring clients a consultancy that includes strategy, insights and activation expertise. We have had a great experience thus far and have learned a lot standing up a business and growing it from the ground up.

CEOCFO: Do you have products that you get them involved with, do you get them involved with the sales products, are you just basically consulting and them what they need to do?  How does it all work?

Mr. Cruikshank: Our goal is to help clients achieve growth through human-centered approaches to fully understand the needs, expectations, attitudes and emotions that drive behavior. We continuously monitor cultural and competitive shifts to help clients implement meaningful change and succeed in their markets. We are focused on:

 Humanizing decisions by capturing the “why” and “what next” to inform strategy

 Developing data-led strategies to drive brand and customer experiences that enable growth

 Accelerating speed to value by designing for action in the moments that matter most

We provide three solution pillars of strategy, insight and innovation consulting. From a strategy standpoint that would be how we work across the different parts and teams and organizations to help them develop their customer experience strategy, activating experiences they are providing to their customers and measuring the results. We help them advance their customer centricity and be customer-led. That involved things like strategy and thought leadership, market and competitive landscape and innovation, business and product strategy.

A big part of our practice is cultural strategy. So what are some of the things that are happening in the world that clients need to be tuned-in to, to be more customer centric? We would work across their group and understand the subject matter experts and how they viewed different elements of what their C-suite were trying to move forward with and help them define that. That includes what is the future state and here are all of the inputs that we have from different parts of the organization. Also, here is the customer inputs that we have and how do we get to the desired future state.

The insights pillar would inform and drive the strategy. An example of that would be one of our clients using an experience management technology software called Qualtrics, which is a partner of ours. Qualtrics provides an enterprise software that they would use to get feedback from their customers. Our part is that we would go in and help them design the survey instrument and the data capture, so that they know the types of data they will get. We help them design a program that can be actioned. That would include who they are talking to, and types of things they are getting from a feedback standpoint from that survey instrument.

How do we bring that back and do the analysis? We would do analytics on that. We would tie it to the other data that they have and provide a holistic picture of it. “Given the feedback we have helped you designed and obtained through your technology, here are the pieces that you need to consider, and here are the recommendations that we have to drive that strategy.” That is an example of the insights pillar.

The activation pillar would be if this was a technology client that was providing a new app. They were bringing a new app to the market, so they wanted to get feedback on the experience that the members were having with that app. However, they did not have the right licensing with Qualtrics to be able to do that. Where we came in is we knew it could be done because we had done it before with other clients. We helped them upgrade their license to obtain in-app feedback. Then we were able to tie it to the other customer experience data that we were helping them with. That is an example with the activation where we help them activate and optimize the technology to evolve the experiences they are trying to deliver to their customers.  

CEOCFO: What are some of the other data people are trying to receive?

Mr. Cruikshank: The customer service area or call center is a great example. There is a lot centered now around unstructured data so transcripts of calls, unstructured feedback that the client is obtaining through their different channels of customer support. We have started doing a lot of work around the themes are coming out of those interactions. For example, where are the bigger gaps that they need to address, how does that fit with the strategy and the other insights that they are capturing. Then how do they take action to drive improved experiences so that they are more competitive in the marketplace. It could be touchpoint data, such as here is a group of customers that went through this touchpoint and experienced these challenges, this is the incidence of that. We would help clients understand that and track that with the other data that we have. It could be the themes that we saw in those touchpoints and then resulting, here are the ways that you can address that and the potential implications from a revenue standpoint or a cost standpoint.

CEOCFO: What type of companies do you work with?

Mr. Cruikshank: We tend to work with Fortune 1000 companies because that is where we came from.  We over-index in financial services, healthcare, technology, certainly both from a technology service standpoint and technology on the hardware side and retail. To this point, it has been more Fortune 1000 and bigger brands but we believe the same challenges we solve for are at the mid-market and we believe our frameworks and solutions can support clients of all sizes.  

CEOCFO: Are there any particular types or brands or is it across the board with the large companies? Mr. Cruikshank: It has been larger enterprises on the healthcare side, larger health insurers, tech platforms in terms of the social media side of tech services and in terms of the mobile providers, some of the bigger retailers. It has tended to skew a bit more on the bigger side because that is where a lot of our relationships are.

In addition, a lot of investment is coming into the research tech space. Clients are getting inundated with all these new tools and all of these new tech pitches. There are so many of them that it is making it hard to track how they leverage them and how they optimize and bring them in. We’re helping clients understand and optimize the technology to help them drive their business. This is a key aspect on the activation side of the business.

CEOCFO: How do you reach out to people? Are you out doing conferences or are you so well known that they automatically know who you are and what you offer?

Mr. Cruikshank: We do conferences. We are starting to build more of our online presence. We do a lot of thought leadership and we put that through our social channels on the conference circuit. That has been more to just get our name out and that is really what we have been doing since we did an official launch at the beginning of the summer, is get our name out and leverage social channels to do that.

We are still working on what a marketing stack looks like inside the organization in terms of more of a database and a systematic outreach. We have done a lot of organic reach out leveraging our thought leadership. We have invested in our own research and our own data to bring to clients and that is another key element that we have done in the past year.

CEOCFO: Do you have your own technology platform?

Mr. Cruikshank: We have our own data and we are in the partner network for Qualtrics so we can capture our own data through the platform without being a subscriber and we partner with them and pitch together on deals that require service. The tech players are looking for SaaS valuations but clients need help with the servicing of the tech otherwise it will not get adopted, so we come in and manage service on top of their technology when they bring us in so we are helping the client with the service around that technology and that is an important channel for us.

CEOCFO: What is your geographic reach, and how big is your staff?

Mr. Cruikshank: We go anywhere in the world. We have had consultants all over the world. One of our consultants just wrapped an engagement in Europe and we have been fulfilling requests in Asia. I would say the lion’s share of our work is in the US but we have team members across the country. We have not been traveling a ton yet, a couple trips here and there. But that is starting to pick up a bit more and it has been really good to get back out in front of clients live.

CEOCFO: Are you open to more partnerships, are you looking for more or are you happy with what you have?

Mr. Cruikshank: We are completely open to additional partnerships and growing. We have grown rapidly and we want to continue to grow and expand our presence.

CEOCFO: Starting any business costs money; are you currently looking for funding?

Mr. Cruikshank: At this point we have not been looking for funding. We have been bootstrapping with the work and the relationships that we have. While that is the route we have been taking, we’re always open to new partnerships and collaborating with investors.

CEOCFO: Why is empatiX Consulting a special company and different from others out there providing similar services; what sets you apart?

Mr. Cruikshank: What sets us apart is we have brought a team together that can bring the client contextual data and contextual understanding of the market whether that is around their competitors or the cultural aspects that are happening out there and how those cultural trends are impacting their business, categories, employees, etc. I would say the context is a big aspect that sets us apart. The fact that we want to work with the tech partners and we are not looking to build our own tech, we are really looking to service the great technology that is out there. I think there is a huge advantage that we have to be a partner to the technology and clients appreciate that. When we go into deals with a tech partner, we define and adhere to the appropriate swim lanes and we know what our role is relative to our technology partners.

I think the third piece is the design piece and connecting the data that we can capture and analyze to action and bringing that into activating whether that is a new digital experience or a new physical experience. It is how we can drive that activation that is going to drive opportunity for the client. I think those are the key elements. We believe it is resonating in the market in terms of where the tech adoption is. It used to be that you would go in and you would say here is a full-service market research project and from start to finish I am going to design it, collect the data, and report it back to you. The market continues to shift and our approach is to provide services the client needs. It may not be a full-service project but rather a training initiative, analytic hours, strategy workshop or synthesizing their data, our goal is to help the client improve their business outcomes.

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“There has never been a more exciting time in the insights and analytics space and we have been thrilled to bring clients a consultancy that includes strategy, insights and activation expertise.”
Brian Cruikshank