In the wake of COVID-19, empathy matters more than ever. We’re encouraged to ask people how they are and to truly listen to their response. Many people are struggling with feelings of uncertainty and isolation in this new world: now’s the time to build better connections and engage more meaningfully.
In fact, empathy and understanding need to drive everything we do in business. Once the pandemic passes and life returns to ‘normal’, it’s important that we don’t stop being empathetic, or stop caring. This moment that we’re experiencing is an opportunity to forge better relationships and to truly evolve. A lot of people have talked about building business agility in the current climate — but not enough have talked about the importance of building emotional agility.
But, from a business standpoint, why does it matter? Companies have stakeholders that they need to engage with on a regular basis, and how they engage with these people will ultimately determine their short and long-term success. Companies that have the ability to be empathetic will build better relationships and be more successful.
If this all sounds a little too fluffy, let’s start looking at this through a slightly different lens. Rather than being empathetic, think about being audience-centric. To be truly audience-centric you need to put the audience at the heart of everything you do, and then build your company and processes around them. And to do this effectively you need to understand who that audience is — their pain, their feelings, their frustrations — in other words; you need to have empathy.
In sales, having empathy is about deep discovery. Deep discovery unearths bigger problems, which in turn leads to bigger opportunities to provide solutions. If you focus your sales activities on the surface issues, you may miss a lot of the underlying problems and causes.
Your preconceived POV will only deliver you a 100k deal, but by digging deeper, truly having empathy for the customer, and focusing on identifying their real problems, you’ll not only discover a much larger opportunity but create a much more successful customer.
Let’s look at some popular success stories where companies have been built around empathy or customer centricity. Airbnb is a great example of how customer centricity can create a multi-billion-dollar industry. The concept of people letting out holiday homes is not new, but when you think about the needs of the customer, you realise that there was a desire for more options.
Customers wanted the ability to just rent a room for a night, or for that matter, the ability to let a room for a night. This simple understanding of the customer’s needs — and then building the business around those needs — is why Airbnb is so successful.
It is no accident that the first step in Design Thinking is Empathy. A designer knows that to truly come up with a solution they need to deeply understand the problem. And, as all solutions are created to make people’s lives better, we need to understand the problem at the human level – not as a segment, but as an individual.
When you are addressing the challenges of an individual rather than a faceless segment, you ultimately end up being more empathetic, which in turn delivers a better outcome. It’s no accident that legal teams refer to victims by name and not simply as ‘The Victim’ when in court, as this creates more emotional empathy, which in turn can lead to a more positive outcome.
You will have noticed that in some instances I talk about being Audience Centric; that’s because empathy doesn’t just mean focussing on the customer. How we treat our employees also has a massive impact on our business success. Having empathy as an employer, especially in uncertain times, can build long-lasting relationships, lead to higher employee retention and satisfaction, and create a more productive workplace.
So the next time you are in a situation, whether it is with a customer, an employee, or simply a friend, make sure that you truly listen to what is being said. Be empathetic, find the pain points, and discover solutions together. The positive effects of empathetic engagement can be truly transformational for yourself, your business, your customers, and the people around you.
Check out our blog, why empathetic companies are also prosperous companies, to continue learning insightful tips and lessons!