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Improving the customer experience through engaged employees

What is empathy?

According to Merriam-Webster, it’s “the capacity for understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another…without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” Simply put, to empathize with someone is to put yourself in his or her shoes and have an understanding of what they’re going through.

Women in conversation

Why is empathy important – especially in the workplace?

We’re currently experiencing a pattern of low empathy in our society. We’re under-rested and over-scheduled, often both at work and at home. We just don’t have time to care. Unfortunately, this situation has a negative impact on morale in the workplace and, consequently, productivity and accountability. According to a Gallup study done in 2013, 70% of employees are disengaged at work, making them less likely to be empathetic towards their coworkers and customers. Inevitably, their dissatisfaction trickles down to the customer experience.

Engage with your employees.

At the same time, customers are looking for vendors who care more about their pain points and their business goals. They’re looking to really connect with their contacts and thus experience a more effective and pleasurable interaction than with other vendors. In a nutshell, if you can find a way to engage your employees, it will positively impact how happy your customers are with the service you provide. In fact, another Gallup study revealed that companies that strategically create engaged employees experience 22% higher profitability, 21% higher productivity and 37% less absenteeism.

Tools to improve empathy:

  1. Focus on being present. Make and maintain eye contact. Give the person 100% of your attention.
  2. Ask yourself what the person may be thinking or feeling.
  3. Listen to understand rather than to reply. Don’t interrupt. Listen completely and then acknowledge the person’s frustrations or concerns. In the words of Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  4. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Empathy Definition

The benefits of an empathetic work culture are many.

Acknowledgement of the concerns and frustrations being expressed is key, whether from a co-worker or a customer, because it will immediately diminish frustration significantly. It will also make those involved more open to discussing solutions and taking responsibility rather than blaming others or circumstances for the problem. The benefits of having an empathetic work culture are many. By practicing empathy, and encouraging everyone in your organization to do the same, you will see improvements in employee morale and an increased level of employee engagement. This will ultimately result in improved productivity and increased accountability, benefiting your throughput and, in the end, the level of service you can provide to your customers. Rather than pointing fingers, employees and managers will be able to assess what’s working and what isn’t and develop solutions. Best of all, it will encourage your employees to show the empathy toward your customers that is crucial for building long-term relationships – like rings spreading in a pond. It will become a habit that customers grow to appreciate and value, thereby strengthening those relationships and fostering loyalty. It won’t cost you a dime, but it could make you a bundle.

To learn more, listen to Deidre Koppelman’s podcast on Empathy.

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