“Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection.  Rarely does an empathic response begin with ‘at least’.”                                                                                                                                                      ~ Brené Brown

by Mark Campanale, Digital Marketing Manager

No matter what the medium our customers choose to make contact with us – phone, web, social, e-mail, in-person – they are all looking for the same thing: to make life simple. We need to be problem solvers and to completely surpass our customer’s expectations, which will in turn lead to a positive, lasting impression. To put it in the most basic terms, we need to walk in our customer’s shoes. Yet before we can solve problems, we need to truly understand the nature and the story behind the problem we are solving. Moreover, we need to be able to identify with the customer’s situation; we don’t necessarily need to have experienced the exact issue, but we need to become reflective in order to share and experience what the customer is feeling at that moment. This trait is called empathy, and it is our most valuable asset in creating the ultimate customer experience.

Empathy is the capacity to understand and share the feelings of another person; the ability to feel what that person is experiencing and from their perspective. Customers and co-workers alike want their experience to be heard and understood. When we truly understand each other, then a connection is born.

Consider a situation wherein you are coming to work with a crutch after a terrible accident. You see three coworkers approaching you, and then this exchange happens:[administrator notice: content below memberonly folder=”Pawnbroker Members, International PB Members, IP Members, Canadian PB Members, staff, Members Only Code” message=”This Content is for Members Only”]

Tom: “Whoa – are you all right? What happened? Let me help you…”
Jessie: “I know how you feel right now. I had a similar accident about a year back and it hurt like hell. You are really brave coming to work today. Do not worry, you will feel better and I will always be there to cheer you up.”
Bob: “What are we doing for lunch today?”

Who is sympathetic? Who is empathetic? Who is apathetic?

Let’s break it down by person:
Tom is sympathetic to your injury. He is willing to help, but he lacks the emotional connection to what you are experiencing.
Jessie is empathetic, as she clearly shows you that she understands what you are going through. It may not be the exact injury or pain, but her reflection on a similar experience shows she has taken the time to identify with you.
Bob is hungry. That is all.

Real Life scenario #1:
A customer walks into your store, visibly upset. She walks up to you and says, “I bought this guitar on Saturday from you to use at our gig the same night.   When we started soundcheck, there was an slight warp in the bridge that caused the pins to pop and undo the strings.  I called, but you were closed.  I had to borrow another musicians’ guitar to play my set.  This was NOT disclosed to me when I purchased the guitar.  CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW EMBARRASSED I WAS?!?!?!?!

The customer gives an extremely important cue – asking you to own her embarrassment. To completely empathize with her situation, however, requires you to actually pick up on that cue prior to trying to solve the issue; this can be achieved by learning one of the key elements in developing empathy that we will cover in our next article called radical listening.