Why Empathy is Good Business

Roger Ebert Empathy QuoteEmpathy and business aren’t often used in the same sentence.  But what most companies don’t realize is how powerful empathy can be. In fact, a marriage between empathy and business has the potential to yield impressive results.

Empathy with Employees

Most of us have dealt with a boss that doesn’t seem to understand what it’s like to do our jobs.  Dealing with unruly customers, the pressures of a lightning-paced work environment, the balance between domestic and work responsibilities – and the list goes on.  It is incredibly refreshing to encounter the rare boss who gets it – the one who listens to our concerns and takes them seriously, helps out when we need it and praises us for a job well done.

What does this mean for employers?  It means that a little bit of empathy goes a long way.  If your employees feel understood and cared for, they’e more likely to provide high quality service to their customers.  And the better the service they provide, the more money your company makes.

Empathy with Customers

What about the customer who seems unable to please?  Show a little empathy.  The simplest and most effective thing you can do is to listen to a customer’s concerns.  Often, all that person is seeking is to be acknowledged and respected.[blockquote align=”left”] The simplest and most effective thing you can do is to listen to a customer’s concerns.[/blockquote]

In some cases, acknowledgement just isn’t enough.  The customer may have good reason to be concerned.  Imagine you are in your customer’s circumstances.  How would you want your concern to be dealt with?  If there is reason for alarm, show concern and take action.

When Companies Lack Empathy

Let’s take a look at a recent incident with United Airlines: A ten-year-old girl was flying United as an unaccompanied minor on her way to summer camp.  She departed from San Francisco, and landed in Chicago for a connecting flight to Traverse City, Michigan.  When she landed in Chicago, she was left to fend for herself –  no one at United made an attempt to help her to her connecting flight.

When she asked United employees to use a phone to call her parents, she was told to wait. In the meantime, she missed her connecting flight to Michigan.

When the girl’s mom called United, after she was alerted that her daughter did not arrive at the camp as scheduled, she was put on hold for 20 minutes and then transferred to a United customer service representative in India.  Finally, hours later, after the girl’s mother spoke with a United representative who was a mother herself, the situation was rectified and the girl landed in Michigan.

The United Airline case serves as a perfect example of why it is so important that businesses operate from a place of empathy.  United missed multiple opportunities for empathic and proactive response.  They overlooked the absence of a chaperone for this girl, they ignored her requests to phone her parents, her mom was put on hold despite her missing child, and after all of this, their compensation was disappointing, at best.  Now United faces embarrassment and bad press, which could all have been avoided by using such an obvious, yet overlooked quality: empathy.