Customer relations: Do not just connect, empathize!

holding-hands

This is the age of connectivity.  Companies are being urged to connect with all their publics– their customers, employees, suppliers, business associates, the community they work with – in a personal way. 

Social media is no doubt an indispensable tool to reach large numbers of people at the same time and in many ways. 

With social media, you can promote your latest products or new variants of your products, announce sales and promos, communicate to your audience your latest community-outreach program, and immediately take action on customer complaints.

But connecting is not all there is to it.  Companies should connect with EMPATHY.

Empathy is defined as the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Empathy is considered social currency.

It involves taking the time to get to know the customers and what they want.

In The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, Philip Morley prescribes building customer wants into the foundation of the business.  Doing a survey before launching a new product or service can serve to find out if your business idea is indeed what people want.

However, a survey falls short of constant communication with your customers.  Morley suggests weekly e-mails to develop a relationship where you can ask them all sorts of things and really fine-tune your business to their needs and wants.

According to Bradford Shimp, If you go the extra mile in empathizing, you can “become” the customer. Spend time with them, friend them on Facebook, ask them questions, think about their motivations. The closer you can come to understanding your customer, the better you can shape your business to meet their needs. Thus, you will naturally care for them and protect them, and they will feel that you are one of them.

Empathy is also useful in dealing with customer complaints.  Arccompany.com discusses how: 

When a customer complains, the company should understand the gripe is not personal in nature; it is not really directed to management or the employees. Rather, it is the product or the brand that is coming under fire.

With this knowledge, business owners can either (1) follow company policy no matter if the customer has a legitimate gripe or not, or (2) apply empathy to the situation.

With empathy, one places oneself into the customer’s shoes and works together with the customer to resolve the matter with no need for an escalation process to be invoked.

The first  option may be the company’s preferred method, when working to the letter of the policy, but it’s the latter that will leave a far more satisfactory outcome and potentially set that customer on the path to becoming a true brand advocate.

As social media opens up multiple channels for the connected consumer to air grievances on, so the need grows for organizations to move away from just being a people business when it comes to customers, and adopt to being a provider in the empathy business as well.

Photo: &ldquo;<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7193555@N05/4073020383″>Holding Hands</a>&rdquo; by <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7193555@N05/”>Davi Sommerfeld</a>, c/o Flickr. <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>Some Rights Reserved</a>

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