The concept of empathy has long been discussed in the psychology field. But what is empathy, and what does it have to do with business? According to the Oxford dictionary, empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. While it is clear how that can help personal relationships, it is not always so obvious how that can help businesses, which tend to be focused on bottom lines and other financial metrics.
However, aren’t businesses all about relationships too? We would be nothing without our customers, and nurturing a good relationship with them is just as important as providing a quality service. One thing cannot survive without the other.
Think about it this way: we’re all customers at some point, whether you’re making a big purchase like a new computer or deciding to go for a drink to your local establishment. When you buy products or services from anyone else, how do you like to be treated? Does the quality of the service influence where you make your purchases? Most people would say yes.
Empathy helps establish great relationships with your customers, improve their satisfaction and build trust, which in turn makes them return and therefore improves your business results.
But you may ask, how do we use the principles of empathy with our current/potential customers?
- Understand that we’re all human and may have other commitments or issues in our lives. If a customer takes a while in replying to your message, there is probably a good reason. Give them some time and, if you haven’t heard back in a few hours or a day (depending on the type of communication), send a polite reminder.
- Educating the client is all very well, but consider the situation from their perspective. If you need to take your computer to be repaired, are you interested in hearing all the little technical details or do you just want it fixed? Language services customers are likely to simply want the job done, without having to worry about any particular details, so if you need to raise awareness about a linguistic issue, by all means do so, but keep it polite, informative and as brief as possible. And try to find a solution before contacting the client with a problem. Be helpful, not pedantic.
- When it comes to marketing, consider how much you like receiving cold calls/e-mails. The person you’re trying to contact probably dislikes them as much as you, so unless you’re encouraged by their website to send a speculative CV or information about your business, try to establish hot leads.
- Take into account how busy people are these days, so keep unnecessary contacts to a minimum, and keep the message short and to the point. That said, there is nothing wrong with the occasional contact to an existing client to remind them of your presence.
- Go out of your way to offer excellent service and try help your clients when they’re in a tight spot. By empathising with their situation and giving them a hand, they’re bound to appreciate you even more.
- Lastly, empathy also applies to larger companies that hire services on an ad-hoc basis, translation companies being the prime example. When hiring freelance translators, the key to establishing a good, successful relationship is to treat them with respect. Don’t expect to get quality work at very low rates, don’t send generic e-mails to hundreds of translators and give the job to the one who replies first, etc.
To sum it up, when in business always remember to see things from the other person’s perspective, and treat them how you would like to be treated if you were in their situation. Empathy goes a long way.