Why Your Business Can’t Survive Without Empathy

empathy customer service

The customer care industry runs on empathy. For our customer care representatives at Nationwide Inbound, empathy is a survival skill. We train our employees from day one how to empathize with the customers they deal with on the phone. They have to understand what it feels like when their car windshield gets cracked or how frustrating it is when the furnace breaks down on a below-zero day. Empathy belongs in more than just our customer care center, though. In short, empathy is key to growing your business.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to feel what another person is going through, to be able to relate to him. It’s walking in his shoes for a mile or two. It’s a plumber recognizing how frustrating it is to have leaky plumbing. It’s an auto glass repairman knowing just what it will take to motivate the customer to purchase from him instead of from a competitor. It’s a Nationwide Customer Care Representative understanding just how frustrated a customer is on the other end of the line and knowing how to help calm him down.

Why is empathy important?

According to a 2013 Forbes article Angel Cabrera, president of George Mason University asks graduating MBA students “what is a business?” Too often, the answers have to do with money and making more money. But President Cabrera says that “at its very heart, a business is the beauty of bringing together people and things to make the community better off—these are the businesses we admire. Empathy is the one tool that makes it all happen.”

Empathy helps you and your team relate to the needs of your customers, understand the perceptions of your verbal and nonverbal communication, and motivate a customer to buy your product or service.

How to develop empathy in your team

Empathy isn’t an easy skill to teach, especially if you are working with people who don’t realize its importance. Here are some ways to develop empathy in your team:

Spend some time in the customer’s shoes.

spend time in customer's shoes

Have your higher-level managers mystery shop in your industry by role-playing a customer in a common scenario and calling competitors with for a solution. They should then share their findings with the team. For instance, if you’re in the auto glass industry, have your techs call competitors about their broken windshield that needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Tell them to record in a notebook the service they receive over the phone, if it’s frustrating or friendly, and if they are able to get an appointment when they need it.

Research your customer base.

research customer base

Gather your team to try to understand your audience. Send out email surveys asking customers to record what they love and what they hate in your industry. Ask them what they hope to gain by using your service and what about your service causes problems for them. Then, record everything you’ve learned on an empathy map to chart what works for your customers and what doesn’t. (If you don’t know what an empathy map is, check out this great article from Copyblogger.)

Create a list of questions for your team to think about while they are dealing with customers.ask customer questions

To keep your team focused on customers, come up with a short list of questions to help them empathize. To start with, here are a few:

  • How is my customer feeling?
  • How would I feel if I were in her shoes?
  • How would I want the problem resolved?
  • What will make this customer happy?

That’s all we’ve got for today. Have you spent time developing empathy in your team? If so, tell us how in the comments!

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