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Empathy in business is a hot topic right now, and for good reason. According to the Harvard Business Review and their 2016 Empathy Index, the top empathetic companies in 2015 gained twice as much market value as those at the bottom of the rankings. The top companies also created 50% more in earnings.
For employees, empathy is also a critical component of their experience at work. In Businessolver’s 2019 State of Workplace Empathy study, 82% of employees said they would consider leaving their job for one that had a more empathetic approach. With Millennials, it’s 87%. Additionally, the majority of employees, 78%, would work more hours for a company that was empathetic.
When considering a business's bottom line and factors such as employee productivity and retention, clearly there is significant value for companies to adopt more of an empathetic approach in their everyday business affairs. But don’t fret. Integrating the empathy economy and your business doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Small, incremental steps can produce big results.
With that in mind, here are 10 steps you can take right now to integrate your business with the empathy economy by providing a personal experience for your customers and employees.
1. Tweak your hiring practices
Your employees are the key to treating your customers with empathy. Hire employees, especially in customer service, that display emotional intelligence and that will respond to your customers with the human touch. This may require changing how you hire people, but it will be worth it in the end.
2. Hold empathy training
Customer expectations are at an all-time high, so it’s important to train your employees, particularly customer service agents, to meet those expectations. Anticipating problems and complaints, and their solutions can make the difference between a resolved issue and a lost customer. Prepare for industry-specific issues that may arise, and train your employees to respond with empathy when they encounter them.
3. Listen and pay attention
Listen and pay attention to what your employees and customers are saying. If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you do understand, still ask questions. Get to know your employees and customers beyond the areas that are just concerned with the financial aspects of your business. Listen to how they talk about their jobs and ask them what would make their job easier. Practice “people skills” because it will go a long way towards making employees and customers feel valued and respected.
4. Reward empathy
Notice when an employee delivers empathy, whether in the workplace or to a customer. Show your workers respect, and praise them when they do something important. Respect will make your employees feel valued and engaged, which will be reflected by them in how they deal with your customers.
5. Spend a day in your customers' shoes
Have your employees get to know your customers. If possible, have your customer service team meet your biggest customers in person and experience, in their own environment, the problems they are trying to solve. If that isn’t possible, find another way to get your employees to see the world through your customers' eyes. The added perspective will make a major difference in the empathy they are able to provide and your business’s ability to retain customers.
6. Be flexible
Employees appreciate a flexible workplace just as much as customers like a flexible vendor. For employees, this can mean including flex time or remote working as perks at work or being accommodating when there is an illness, death in the family, marriage, etc. For customers, it can be extending a free trial, altering a billing date, or otherwise going above and beyond to solve a problem.
7. Be proactive
Identify problems or areas of concern that exist in your business, and determine what is causing them. Ask your employees and customers about them. After that, do something about it by finding a solution. Both customers and employees will appreciate and value being asked for input as much as they’ll be happy that the problem is fixed.
8. Have empathetic bots
A study conducted by Penn State University reported that most people would prefer to receive empathetic replies from a chatbot, rather than receiving a reply from a bot that didn’t show emotions. People also want a timely response and like the use of emoticons. Have your chatbots programmed to use emoticons, respond swiftly, and display empathy by apologizing when necessary.
9. Make customer insight reports available to all employees
Understanding your customer and knowing who they are is the best way to enable employees to express empathy with them. Make it a regular practice to create a yearly customer insight report, and distribute it to every employee. Allow the rest of your employees to listen in on customer service calls or view chats. This will develop a customer-centric approach at every level of the company.
10. Examine how workplace culture is connected to results
Put in place a system that measures and tracks the link between your company culture and customer conversions. With this information, you can then establish a more customer-centered approach to your business and determine how increased empathy is contributing to increased revenue. You can also link this to a workplace incentive and bonus program that rewards employees. This approach will lead to every employee being vested in improving the customer experience.
In today’s world, and economy, demonstrating empathy in the workplace, for both employees and customers, is becoming the standard more and more. There’s no time like the present, so get started now with these fairly simple steps. Done successfully, it’ll affect your bottom line for the better.