How Empathy Pays Off for Businesses
Ever think about the economics of empathy? Said another way, empanomics—the dollars and sense behind success.
It involves sensing, really knowing, how people feel—good, bad or indifferent—about working for, and doing business with, your organization. Just consider:
- How do clients feel about your company as a business partner?
- How do employees and contractors feel about working for you?
- How do customers feel about the reps who sell and service your offerings?
A few years back, Belinda Parmar authored a Harvard Business Review article, “The Most (and Least) Empathic Companies.” Parmar, founder of The Empathy Business, wrote: “There is a direct link between empathy and commercial success. Businesses are more profitable and productive when they act ethically, treat their staff well, and communicate better with their customers.”
“Businesses are more profitable and productive when they act ethically, treat their staff well, and communicate better with their customers.” Click To Tweet
Makes good business sense. Right? Caring drives commerce. As Parmar observed, there are opportunities for empathy at every touchpoint throughout your organization. Like profit-and-loss statements, they can be measured in client conversations, worker interactions and customer engagements.
Whatever the metric, how well you relate to, and connect with, people contributes to success. And to succeed, you’ve got to relate and commit on levels understood and appreciated by those who matter.
As an IBM executive once told me: “People do business with people they like and trust.” Sound advice. For them to feel that way, they need to know you care. A lot.
“People do business with people they like and trust.”
To that point, an article in Inc. posed this question: “Why does having a culture of caring matter?”
The answer: “Because it impacts your bottom line: culture impacts employee engagement, which in turn affects absenteeism, retention and productivity. Culture also impacts the customer experience: happy cultures produce happy employees and therefore happy customers.”
“Culture also impacts the customer experience: happy cultures produce happy employees and therefore happy customers.” Click To Tweet
And I should add, happy clients, whose customers are well-served by our contact center agents. Here’s where empathy, nurtured within a caring culture, proves to be a straightforward strategy for success. One begets the other.
In the call center industry, empathy isn’t always a given, however. Done right, agents act as extensions of a client’s brand, reflecting its values. When they connect with customers, they’re ambassadors. And when they don’t, they’re damn-bassadors—hurting the business and damaging relationships.
Earlier this year, Richard Shapiro, founder and president of The Center for Client Retention, wrote this piece for Smart Customer Service: “Empathy Must Be the New Norm in Contact Centers.”
He makes this observation: “Many who are looking for work in a contact center environment have been raised with digital tools and toys and know all about instant gratification. What they might not know is how to recognize underlying emotions and how to respond, human to human.”
Okay then, let’s cue up the emotional intelligence (EQ) quotient, of which empathy is a key factor. Because EQ plays into decision-making in the workplace and marketplace.
To be sure, empathy influences many choices. Applicants consider it when applying for jobs. Clients weigh it when selecting business partners. Consumers review it when buying products and services. They factor empathy into their fiscal feelings—dollars and (what they) sense.
Parmar, who gave a TEDᵡ talk on empathy, is among today’s soft-side business specialists expounding the virtues of emotionally enriched operations. They praise companies that nurture it. Encourage others to embrace it. Question those lacking it.
To the expert, they advocate compassionate and consideration when tending to business. Really caring about clients, customers and workers. Identifying with them. And always remembering that line from the great Otis Redding song: “Try a little tenderness (that’s all you gotta do).”
So, call center operators and other businesspeople should heed those words, take heart—and be sure to show a lot of it, too.
As a Working Solutions agent, Cynthia reaches out to customers to resolve their issues, with goodwill and empathy: “Because we can’t see them and they can only hear us, I keep a mirror on my desk to make sure I’m smiling—so they know I’m leaning into the call.”
“The workplace is filled with four-letter words. ‘Work’ itself is one. And so are ‘hire’ and ‘fire.’ No mistaking their meanings. But what about words that convey more feeling? Such as ‘care’ and ‘love.’ True, they’re not as tangible. More telling, though, they speak volumes about being in touch with your workforce.”
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