Empathy. The word instantly evokes a feeling that we’ve all felt at some time or another. It makes us think of that day we bought a big cake to soothe away the stress from a friend’s hard day. Or when we couldn’t stop smiling at a loved one’s wedding. It does not, however, make us think of business or work.
But, it should. Because empathy, while seemingly soft and mushy, is the driving force behind any successful business. And it touches all points of your business, from finding the right product, to adapting to the market, to retaining customers and keeping employees working hard.
Read on to discover why empathy in business is important and the four ways it affects your bottom line.
Feel their pain to create the cure
Before you even launch a product you should look around you and try to feel the pain in the market. Empathize with consumers and see where there’s a pain point that no one has resolved. That is your golden nugget.
Take Uber, for example. On their website they write, “On a snowy Paris evening in 2008, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp had trouble hailing a cab. So they came up with a simple idea—tap a button, get a ride.”
The founders of Uber experienced a pain point with finding a ride, and they realized they weren’t alone. They empathized with consumers and realized not everyone could afford a black car service. In response, they created their own company, that provided on-demand service without a hefty price tag to match. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Uber blew up into a multibillion-dollar success story.
And it’s not just Uber that used empathy to create a much-needed product. The team at Kartra looked for the pain in the market. Once we found it, we empathized with it and spent years developing a product to cure, not just band-aid, consumer frustrations.
Yes, Kartra was born because we realized how painfully annoying (and expensive) it is to duct-tape 8+ platforms together for a single business. We realized that business owners should focus on what they’re best at: their business. They shouldn’t have to spend hours trying to understand their software. And $4 Million and five years later, our empathy created a product that users are raving about.
Stay in tune with customer attitudes
While it would be nice to find a customer pain point and run with it, we need to constantly keep our ear to the ground and stay alert for changing attitudes. And we must empathize with those attitudes and adjust our business alongside them.
Here’s a tale of two businesses. One empathized with customers and regularly adapted, while the other didn’t.
To tell the story in full, let’s travel back 20 years…to a time where, on a Friday night, we spent 45 minutes picking out a video at a Blockbuster and loading up on popcorn and candy treats at the checkout.
And then came Netflix. Now, Netflix wasn’t always the streaming giant we know it as today. Once upon a time it simply mailed out DVDs in a little red package for a monthly fee. This removed the time constraint of running out to the store and for certain movie selections, the embarrassment of facing someone as you checked out (I don’t care what anyone says, Mean Girls is a stone-cold classic).
But Netflix didn’t stop there. A few years later, it realized that customers were frustrated with the hefty late fees that Blockbuster demanded. And Netflix empathized with them. So in early 2000 Netflix introduced its new business model: unlimited rentals without due dates or late fees.
Customers were THRILLED, to say the least. And had Blockbuster empathized with their customers, they would have dropped the fees and added an online service right then and there. But they didn’t. Instead, they focused on profit, and it wasn’t until their profit starting taking a hit that they tried to launch their own mail delivery service in 2004 (six years after Netflix launched). They were just a little too late.
Two short years later, Netflix made their biggest adaptation to the market yet: they went digital. They listened to customers and empathized with their excitement for digital services, so they introduced the streaming content we know and love today (AND they kept their DVD service for die-hards because, well, they empathized with them too).
A few short years later, Blockbuster is just the name for a store we used to go on movie nights, while Netflix cemented itself in popular culture. And that’s thanks to Netflix’s ability to always empathize with the frustrations and excitement of their customers, a whole generation gets to enjoy Netflix and Chill nights.
Empathize with every complaint
It’s odd, but true that when a customer complains and we offer them exceptional service, they often end up becoming a much more loyal customer than one who never complained in the first place. They will buy more over time and tell their friends about their exceptional service.
And the key to this? You guessed it…empathy.
Having empathy in customer service doesn’t mean saying they are right that your product is a “big piece of stinky trash and never works.” It means feeling their pain and understanding how their PDF not downloading fully could have left them feeling gypped and frustrated. It means acknowledging that what they’re feeling is valid and then finding a solution that works for you both.
Empathy towards an upset customer helps humanize your business and creates a bond that no amount of advertising can buy.
Effective leadership is rooted in empathy
I want you to imagine a scenario with me for a moment. You work a job at a fast-paced company. For the past three weeks, you’ve stayed until 10 pm cranking out work. You’re exhausted, burnt out and quite frankly, ready to give your notice. So when your boss comes in and yells about how there was a typo and that “Matt in accounting never makes mistakes like that,” do you really want to work another late night? Or is that exit door looking extra tempting?
But what if your boss came in with a delicious muffin and some coffee and graciously thanked you for all your hard effort and told you to come in an hour later tomorrow and get some rest? Instantly you feel appreciated and understood. My guess is you don’t mind working hard for that boss because they empathize with you.
As a business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in our bottom line, pleasing our customers and getting everything done, that sometimes our amazing employees fall between the cracks.
Yet empathy in the workplace will not only make work more inviting but will actually boost productivity and the quality of the work your employees put out.
Be ready to bend the rules when a worker undergoes a hardship, like sickness or a fire. And be ready to celebrate when they announce good news, like a wedding, a baby or even a birthday. Trust me; when it comes to empathy at work, a little extra effort goes a long way.
Sometimes being empathetic can take only minutes and reap massive rewards. But other times, it’s a lot of hard work. It’s challenging to constantly grow and adapt based on what your customers are feeling. But, that is the only way you’ll see your profit margins boom and your business survive.
Has empathy ever helped you in business? Please share in the comments below!