Topic(s): Customer Engagement Employee Engagement Customer Experience Human Connection

Empathy is the most important driver for business. Here’s why.

How can empathy make a difference as we are all adapting to a changing world? Last week we hosted a strategic session with some of our customers, together with Steven Van Belleghem. During this session, they had the chance to put some of the biggest challenges they’re facing on the virtual meeting room table.

In this blog post, we gladly share some of the insights with you. The key take-away? Empathy should be the most important driver in the decisions you are (planning on) taking.

 

Try a little tenderness

Otis Redding already sang about it in 1966, and it’s never been truer. With all these changes happening the need for empathy and understanding has never been bigger. In uncertain times we want transparency and reassurance. According to this report by Morning Consult, “Consumers [...] want to know how you're providing for and protecting them from harm’s way, taking care of your employees, and otherwise managing your business in this unique time.”

hello customer blog empathy driver for business
Source: Morning Consult - Brand Management in the COVID-19 Era

 

So how can empathy help organisations deal with the challenges they are facing? Let’s find out.

 

1. “How can we manage change with employees in our organisation?”

Challenge: Change is the only constant, so they say. Still, the changes that we’re facing now are drastic and unseen. That is not only hard on your customers, but it is on your employees too. Especially for your frontline staff, who now need to give advise and create value remotely. How can companies manage this change?

Steven’s answer: Showing understanding and empathy is a good first step. The switch to a new way of working is hard because your employees miss the energy of physical customer interaction. They still have to put in a lot of energy, but nothing really comes back. There is no instant feedback to know if they are doing a good job. It’s important to recognise how your people feel and to mentally prepare them that for the time being, they will have to put in more energy than they will get back.

At the same time, organisations need to make their employees believe that they are creating value for the customer. A small thing that companies can do is to let their employees explicitly ask customers for feedback at the end of a conversation. This reinforces them and gives them the strength to do it again.

Secondly, organisations will need to retrain their people to use digital channels like Whatsapp and Messenger for customer interactions. The current situation opens up a window of opportunity to learn employees these new skills, but it is also important as we cannot assume that this won’t happen again.

If you want to know more about how organisations can empower their people to use empathy in customer interactions, watch this video here!

 

2. How can we prepare ourselves to restart business activities after Corona?

Challenge: There will come a time when lockdown will become less strict, and businesses can restart their activities. Still, that will come with some challenges too. How can organisations map these challenges and proactively offer solutions to their customers?

Steven’s answer: On the one hand you have the businesses that had to close. On the other hand, there are the businesses that stayed open. Both lost a lot of revenue and have to make a fresh start. The challenge is to be ready at the moment when the gates reopen. But the concrete meaning of that is probably different for every company or customer.

Empathy and listening are the key ingredients to understand how you can prepare yourself or your customers for this big reopen. Now is the time to reach out to customers one-on-one, not to sell them something, but to understand how they feel. Ask them how they are doing, how business is going and what their biggest worries and fears are.

Try to understand what the human feels, and not the customer. Once you know that, you can act and add value. That’s the only thing we can do right now: understand the human emotion and use your own humans (your employees) to connect with other humans (your customers).

 

3. In times of increasing digital convenience, will customers still understand that sometimes they have to be patient?

Challenge: Online transactions and e-commerce are booming, and customers want products delivered to them as fast as possible. For companies who are new to this playing field, it takes some time to adapt. But will customers still understand in the future that they might need some patience?

Steven’s answer: There’s a norm of fast and easy right now. Of course, for some products or services customers can wait, and they don’t need it delivered by the next day. But still, as customers, we are being trained to expect this convenience.

Again, organisations need to empathise with their customers. During the lockdown, people look for things to do to pass the time, like gardening. Of course, they don’t want to wait for three more days to get started. So they order their gardening stuff at bol.com, instead of at the local gardening store. Why? Because bol.com is easy to find via Google, and customers know that they promise next-day delivery.

Long story short: if you’re unavailable, people will go somewhere else. It’s a habit in our behaviour that is being forged, and that is hard to fight. Organisations, whether it’s big companies or small local businesses, need to understand that this is what customers have come to expect, and they need to find ways to adapt and change their processes accordingly.

 

To conclude

In the weeks and months to come, organisations will have some big changes to make and important decisions to take. As we said, it’s all about being ready by the time the gates reopen.

This will be a challenge for your employees and your customers alike. Putting yourself in their shoes is the first step towards understanding what they expect, and how your organisation can support them. In short, empathy is the most important driver for your business strategy right now. If you want to know how Hello Customer can support you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, we are always glad to help.

If you want more inspiration for your business, you’re welcome to join our next webinar with Rik Vera on ‘The power of short feedback loops in turbulent times’.