Empathy in Business – We Can Do More

by | Nov 28, 2012 | Observations

Below is a guest blog from Doug Dillard, a Senior Consultant on our Consulting Solutions team here at PKF Texas. He has written a great entry about the use of empathy in business and what it means to clients.

Many options exist when selecting consultants or solution partners out in the marketplace.  Most advertise experience in accounting management, ERPs, development, implementations and a wide-variety of skillsets they want you to think drives the best opportunity for a successful partnership with your organization.  Most however fall short in a key area that most stakeholders in your company might not even consider: “empathy”.

What does this word mean in the business-world, “empathy”?  Most companies would argue it is their best attribute.  Further the concept to “business relationship” and the confidence of most firms’ increases greater.  Have you ever stopped to hear how people react to each other?  How formal of approach have we become as a society when culturally acceptable mannerisms such as  “yes sir”, “no sir”, becomes the only deciding factor in treating someone who is a professional, like a professional?  Should the business relationship not go much further than the good manner idiosyncrasies that most professionals use in everyday business relationships?  Consider an example from the ending of my recent conversation with a credit card customer service line that connected me to a call center (overseas):

(Me): “…so I have never been late on my bill, yet there was a charge I disputed that was never removed and as a result you have reported me as past due and I received a late fee and you are now reporting me as late to on my history”.

(Customer Service Rep): “I apologize sir, but I have removed the fee”.

(Me): “Yes, I appreciate that, but please reflect my history as not past due in your system.”

(Customer Service Rep): “I am sorry sir, but there is nothing I can do in this situation….(long pause-)”.

(Me): “So, that’s it?  You can do nothing to make the situation right??”

(Customer Service Rep): “No sir…(another long pause)… is there anything else I can help you with today?”

(Me): “I guess not!”

(Customer Service Rep): “Okay sir, well we do appreciate your business and you have a nice day. (Verbatim from a closing script)”

Was this representative polite?  Yes.  Did they refer to me as “sir”?  Yes.  Did they perform all tasks as prescribed by company policy and scripts?  Yes.  Did they show any ‘empathy’ me as a client?  No.

As you can see in this case, if this representative was monitored by a similarly trained quality assurance person within his company, he would receive nearly a perfect score.  Why?  He was trained to read from a script, trained to be a certain personality, trained to never show anger or hostility, trained to be a robot!

Take my example and relate it to your internal and external business contacts.  Do they do everything by the book?  Are you able to provide them with a problem and they produce a solution?  Do they have an answer for everything?  Do they anticipate your follow up issues?  Does their solution get to the “root” of your problem?  Are you a better organization for the solutions they offer?

Ahhh yes…back to the original term: “empathy”.  Empathy is one of the most important ingredients in a business relationship.  Why?  Empathy requires a working knowledge of the field you are working in, similar experiences, as to satisfy your first requirement of having a resource that can meet your needs from a technical standpoint.  How else can one be empathetic without first understanding what you are going through?  Empathy goes much further however, to not only understanding your problem from the most basic level but experience living through other “solutions” offered that do not solve the underlying issues.  Most importantly, empathy means that your resource cares and associates your problems as their problem.  This allows you together to achieve a result that is viable for the long-term of your organization and stakeholders.

To understand what truly helps businesses today, you must seek out solution partners that have walked in the same footsteps as you and have a strong empathetic customer service background.  Dr. Maynard Brusman (2010), a consulting psychologist noted the following questions regarding empathy:

How Empathetic Are You?

•  You know what issues and concerns keep your clients awake at night.
•  You do twice as much listening as talking.
•  You and your clients enjoy spending time with each other, and they routinely confide in you.

Ask these questions about your solutions partner.  If you don’t think there is a “yes” to every question above.  Consider how much more effective and successful it would be to have a relationship with a firm that truly wishes to be with you for the long-term.  Not just billable hours, long-lasting relationships that produce results that all parties can be proud of.  That is true success!

At PKF Texas, we have seasoned professionals that have worked in industry for fast-growing and challenged organizations.  We have professionals that have vast experience in customer service management and support.  Our veterans of business are energetic and holistic in their approach to improve your business visibility and performance.  We leverage technology using proven solutions from Microsoft that help you to work smarter, not harder!









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