Since the COVID-19 pandemic began over 18 months ago, “empathy” and “compassion” have been consistent buzzwords in every industry, and the new normal has called for an empathetic approach to business.
Industry leaders across the board are searching for an answer to a few universal questions:
Where do we start? How do we change our communication patterns to embrace this need for compassionate business?
The answers lie in what I like to call the Compassionate Framework for Business Communications. This framework delves into each area that businesses in almost any industry can focus on to foster empathy in their communications with customers, clients, and colleagues.
Let’s dive into each pillar of the framework so you can start using it in your day-to-day business interactions. Before you know it, you’ll be a compassion expert, and your teams and customers will thank you for it.
Pillar #1: Understanding the Customer Experience
According to a study by McKinsey & Company, 70 percent of the customer experience is based on how the customer feels they are being treated by a business.
There’s a scientific explanation for this, and it has to do with the parasympathetic nervous system.
To explain what I mean, let me ask you a question:
What was your favorite meal that your grandmother made for family gatherings?
When I was writing the book Conscious Communications, I asked my editor this question, and she told me it was her grandma’s creamed corn because it was so buttery and warm and velvety. For years, she tried to replicate the creamed corn. No matter what she tried, she just couldn’t get it right. Finally, she begged her grandma for the recipe, and her grandma’s response was, “It’s out of a can, honey.”
The point I’m trying to make is the memory isn’t about how tasty your grandma’s food is. You remember it being so tasty because of all the nostalgia: The cousins, the playing outside, the games, and the laughing.
It’s all the love you shared in those special moments, and you’ve connected that feeling with the meals that were provided.
The reason you have such nostalgic feelings is that your body remembers the feelings you had during those family gatherings and associates those memories with the food your grandmother made.
When a person has had a pleasant experience in the past with your organization, they’ll be less aggressive in future contact because they’ll be anticipating a positive experience. They’ll trust you more, which means they’ll be more cooperative as they’re working with you.
So, if 70 percent of the customer experience depends on how the customer feels your business is treating them, imagine how they might feel if compassion is one of your number one priorities!
The key here is to teach your team members how to be empathetic. If that seems too good to be true, I’m excited to tell you that teaching empathy is entirely possible. It starts with emotional intelligence training.
Something important to remember is that all humans have a universal emotional need: to feel heard and understood. When you’re talking to a customer, client, or colleague, and they seem hostile, you can use your knowledge of the customer experience to listen to their concerns and validate them to check the box in their mind that they have been heard.
Once you and your team truly embrace the customer experience and try in every conversation to make the other person feel heard and understood, interactions become that much easier, and customers feel more empowered and comfortable working with your business.
Next, businesses need to invest in training in 3 additional top skill sets that will fill in any other gaps that may exist.
Pillar #2: Investing in Top Skillsets
I wholeheartedly believe that to show empathy successfully, professionals need training in three key areas: negotiation, critical thinking, and communication.
Let’s start with negotiation.
When team members have comprehensive negotiation training, they become more comfortable navigating tricky situations with customers, clients, or other colleagues. They also feel more comfortable hearing the word “no,” which will lead to more lasting, high-quality solutions that help customers, clients, and colleagues feel safe and secure.
Next, let’s talk about critical thinking.
Critical thinking truly helps you and your team know what to say when.
When businesses have a streamlined problem-solving process, team members become idea machines. They’re able to come to a solution quickly and easily. They know what questions to ask to gather information, and they know the importance of listening when it comes to gathering more information, which will ultimately promote empathy.
Finally, let’s talk about the last crucial skillset: communication.
Combined with the other skillsets, communication training will really put businesses on the next level. Better communication will lead to increased consistency, which means there will be fewer customer complaints because no matter who customers talk to, they’ll hear the same thing, and they’ll always feel supported and understood.
Now that you know the top 3 skill sets businesses need to thrive in 2021 and beyond, it’s time to talk about the next pillar: creating connection.
Pillar #3: Creating Connection
Have you ever had a conversation where the other person gets increasingly frustrated and keeps retelling the same story over and over? If so, you’re not alone, and the reason that happens is that you and the person you were speaking to were in the conflict zone.
You know you’re in the conflict zone when you feel tension between you and the other person, and the conversations seem to go nowhere. Usually, the person you’re speaking with will either get increasingly aggressive, or they’ll end the conversation abruptly. This is because, in the conflict zone, the nervous system is activated, and the person you’re speaking to will likely either choose fight or flight.
We want to avoid the conflict zone at all costs because nothing productive happens once you or the other person is triggered. You can make it your business’s mission to stay in the connection zone in all conversations with customers, clients, and team members to make sure your conversations move forward easily and efficiently.
Remember how every human needs to feel heard and understood? When we make sure to meet that need in every conversation, we’re checking a box in the other person’s mind that they can move on in a conversation. We’re also allowing them to view us as an ally, which will ultimately lead to connection.
In the connection zone, you can use all of the skill sets discussed here to navigate the conversation easily and effectively, and the other person trusts your ability to do so.
Since we’ve covered connection, it’s time to move on to pillar four: establishing credibility in the new normal.
Pillar #4: Establishing Credibility in the New Normal
Since empathy is such a prominent buzzword across all industries, businesses can take certain steps to walk the talk and establish their credibility in the new normal. We only need three keys to make this happen:
1. Establish safety and security
2. Manage a highly competitive market
3. Create a clear ROI
Let’s take a look at the first key: establishing safety and security. In the new normal, I believe customers and clients will want businesses to interact with them using compassion. Using a systematic approach to do so, like the one outlined in the other pillars, will make your customers and clients feel safe and secure in your business’s abilities to provide great service.
The next key, managing a highly competitive market, refers to making your business stand apart in your respective industry. Ask yourself a few questions:
What makes your business unique compared to businesses with similar products or services?
What makes customers and clients happy to work with you?
Assessing those factors and leaning into your company’s uniqueness will help you thrive in the new normal.
Finally, every business needs to create a clear return on investment that customers will get when working with them. What I mean by that is that businesses should take a look at what benefits they can offer their customers and clients, as well as their teams.
How much money will you save the people who work with you?
How much time will you save them?
Using this ROI to market your business will be essential in establishing credibility in the new normal.
The Time Is Now
I hope this framework helps your business embrace the new normal and make fantastic strides by implementing small, measurable changes.
The time is now. We can make these changes together, one conversation at a time. Want a place to begin? Check out my course The Communication Code for Customer Service to start your team on their compassion journey right away!
If you want to learn more about my philosophies, connect with me on LinkedIn.