I’m sure you agree the need for human connection and understanding has grown significantly in the last 18 months. Many of your customers, members, business owners and even your employees have experienced stress, frustration, fear, isolation or uncertainty. Therefore, if you want to be viewed as a trusted partner, increase sales and especially build loyal relationships, be sure to elevate empathy to your priority list.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is the ability to understand what another person is experiencing and feeling. You actually imagine being in your customer’s or member’s shoes. Ask yourself, “I wonder what it would feel like if I was experiencing this?” Perhaps they were declined for a loan, under financial stress or frustrated with your digital app. You are simply trying to understand how they really feel to gain more insight to solve their problem. Please don’t confuse sympathy with empathy. Sympathy is when you feel sad or sorry for someone and express concern. While this is certainly nice, I may not feel you truly understand and can help me.
Why Empathy is Essential to Build Relationships and Increase Sales
- Trust is Developed – It’s impossible to have a relationship with someone if we don’t trust that person. However, if you feel I am genuine and show a sincere willingness to understand your problem, you will trust me to provide a solution. Furthermore, if I follow up and ensure you are satisfied, I have earned your respect and hopefully future business.
- Questions are Welcomed – When you are authentic, empathetic and listen attentively, you will naturally hear opportunities to explore further. This means your customer or member will welcome answering valuable questions to gather more information. Therefore, be curious and dig deeper with open-probing questions to engage in meaningful conversations.
- Uncover hidden goals – The empathy and trust you convey while solving a problem often leads to uncovering another hidden goal. For example, in discussing how I can improve my credit score you also ask about my future goals. I share that I’d like to purchase my first home. Now you uncovered a key dream and can partner with me to make that happen.
Three Ways to Develop Your Empathy Muscles
1. Practice, Practice, Practice Empathy Statements with a Question – Never assume you understand what your customer or member is feeling and experiencing. Be willing to get out of your comfort zone and explore further before offering a solution or product. Consider giving an empathy statement and then ask an open-probing question to learn more. Here are some examples:
- If I were in your position, I’m sure I’d have the same concerns and frustrations. Tell me, what’s most important to you now and how can I make this process easier?
- I really want to help here. I’d like to ask you a few questions to be sure I totally understand your situation? What has been your experience with our financial wellness program and what are you hoping to accomplish?
- So if I’m hearing you correctly, it sounds like you are not happy with your ability to save. This is a common concern of many of my customers. What do you believe is preventing you from saving and what are your future goals in this area?
2. Listen Attentively and Be Present – If you spend most of your time talking, you’ll miss the real emotions and essence of what is being conveyed. Focus on slowing down and being present in the moment. What is your member or customer really saying? What do you sense they are not saying? When it’s your time to talk, take a big pause before rushing into a response. Periodically summarize and repeat back some key information to check for understanding.
3. Be Open and Willing to Share – I don’t know about you, but I really appreciate people who are not perfect and are willing to admit past struggles. Let’s face it, we all have our imperfections and experience disappointments. They just make us more relatable and approachable. Imagine I’m struggling with debt and hoping you can help me with a refinance. I find it encouraging if you share how you’ve dealt with overcoming a debt or financial problem in your life. In other words, when we are courageous enough to be a bit vulnerable ourselves, people are more likely to share with us as well.
In summary, empathy is an essential and important skill you can learn and acquire. It’s the key to make an emotional connection and build trust with your customers and members. Empathy is needed now more than ever and will positively impact sales, relationships and loyalty!
FYI – I’m excited to offer my virtual programs for your leadership conference or staff kick-off. Check out the demo video by clicking on my picture below. For an exploratory call, click Contact Barb, email Barb@HighDefinitionBanking.com, or call me at 858-674-5500 x101.
Thanks for reading this post and sharing your observations!