Empathy, not to be confused with sympathy (and yes, there’s a difference between the two), is most simply defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Or in other words, being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Empathy not only plays a vital role in our personal relationships – it’s quite important in developing workplace camaraderie. And, professional empathy applies not only to your co-workers and colleagues but your customers and clients too. But that’s where things can get tricky… so, keep reading.
Being empathetic toward someone does not necessarily mean agreeing with them. It means that you understand that person’s truth. Sounds simple enough, right? It is, in theory. In application, however, you can find yourself in a more challenging situation when you must show empathy – because that’s your job – even when you completely cannot relate to the person or vehemently disagree with their views, thoughts or opinions. Here’s why keeping empathy at the forefront of your professional dealings (especially in a customer-centric environment) is important.
A better understanding of your customers’ needs
Keeping your customers happy is going to be a top priority for any successful business. As such, you must pay attention to what your customers need to keep them satisfied. Expressing empathy can easily demonstrate that you care enough to learn (and not guess) what it is your customer is looking for. Empathy requires you to listen and relate, and in turn, you can meet your customers’ needs. Words of affirmation such as “I hear you” or “I understand” can go a long way toward showing your level of empathy.
Invoking empathy in return
You’ve likely heard some form of the phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Such is the case with empathy. If you’re empathetic toward your customers, they very well may be the same toward you. Practicing empathy can help you gain the trust of your customers, as they’ll feel as though you’re a human being with emotions just like them.
Predicting a customer’s next move
Surprises can be fun when it’s your birthday. But in business, predictable outcomes are the name of the game. When you demonstrate empathy, it will become easier to predict what’s next. Meaning, if your response in a precarious situation is the opposite of empathetic, your customer’s response could literally be anything – and, it likely wouldn’t be a good thing. With empathy, you can rest in the fact that you know you’ve related to the customer and the better you relate, the better the outcome will be.
The moral of the story is that in business, it’s easier to be empathetic than not. And just as anything that’s worth pursuing in life, practice makes perfect. So, maybe one of your New Year’s resolutions can be to practice more empathy? You’ll thank me later.