Empathy isn’t just a wishy-washy tool for customer service pros to use. Nowadays, empathy across channels will improve customer experiences and boost business.
Researchers are finding that the results of empathy in business can be measured — and, more importantly, there’s a positive correlation between an increased showing of empathy and bottom line results.
“Empathy should be embedded into the entire organization,” says Belinda Parmar, CEO of Lady Geek and author of The Empathy Era. “There is nothing soft about it. It is a hard skill that should be required from the board room to the ship floor.”
Why? Companies that show empathy to customers, employees and across their social media platforms see higher customer satisfaction and sales, Parmar and her fellow researchers have found.
In fact, Telefonica Germany, an international telecommunications company, saw a 6% increase in customer satisfaction within six weeks of implementing an empathy training program.
Showing it where it counts
The key is empathy across the board, Parmar says. The empathy quotient includes how the feeling is relayed to customers, employees, and the public through social media.
Empathy isn’t the easiest skill to teach or learn. But when you hire employees who are naturally caring and compassionate, they can learn the best ways to convey empathy.
Here are the best forms of empathy to foster:
Employees can best convey empathy to customers — the ultimate judges of a company’s empathy quotient — when they’re treated with it.
It can be conveyed in several ways:
· 360-degree feedback: Regular reviews of expectations and performance show employees that you care about their success. Even better, allow employees to give feedback on how their bosses and the company overall are doing at treating them.
· Flexibility: Companies want to show they understand employees have to maintain a balanced life so they can stay focused at work and perform at their best will. Allow reasonable flexibility in schedules, workload and expectations — and employees will reward you with outstanding work and loyalty.
· Forgiveness: No matter how skilled and trained employees are, errors will happen. Unless a mistake is the result of a blatant disregard for policies or practices, you want to help employees learn from mistakes, rather than chastise and punish them.
It’s a tough skill to teach or perfect. But Kimberly Warrick, manager of client services, at New Jersey SHARES Inc., in Hamilton, NJ, sets up a short training session devoted especially to teaching employees how to connect through empathy.
In those periodic sessions, she shares these important guidelines:
· Create a positive atmosphere by being attentive, interested and alert as customers speak.
· Remain a sounding board so customers can bounce ideas and feelings off of you as you stay non-judgmental.
· Avoid asking too many questions so you don’t appear to be grilling customers.
· Be a mirror: Reflect back what the customer says and feels.
· Avoid discounting customers’ feelings by saying, “It’s not that bad” or “You’ll feel better later.”
Social media empathy
This might be the newest part of the quotient, but it’s becoming the most important. That’s because your actions and reactions in social media get the largest audience. Customers, potential customers and wannabe dissenters are watching what you do in social media every day.
One of the best ways to increase your social media empathy is to take the emphasis off yourself, the researchers found.
LinkedIn had the highest social media empathy scores in the study, and it was mostly because it had a strong presence on other social media platforms. The company makes that extra effort to go where customers are — or send them to what’s relevant — rather than force them to stay on their own social media platform.
A sincere interest in what customers like and want conveys genuine empathy.
References: Belinda Parmer, Lady Geek, The Empathy Era, Telefonica, LinkedIn
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