Empathy module 101: please note this training is MANDATORY for all colleagues in customer-facing roles. Failure to comply will result in escalation.
Let me save you some time: you don’t need to teach people to be empathetic. You need to allow them to be empathetic. And maybe help them with their writing.
We don’t need to explain empathy, because everyone already knows what it is
Suppose you’re in your friend’s living room (remember when that was okay?). You’re chatting, relaxed, over a shared bottle. She tops up your glass and then, wham! It slips out of your fingers. Red wine all over the place – including her new white rug.
‘Oh my god! I’m so sorry. Did it spill on you? Let me get a cloth. Of course, I’ll pay for the cleaning.’
Almost instantly, you’ve acknowledged the situation, recognised the other person’s feelings, and offered practical help.
We could break that down and talk about the different kinds of empathy you’ve shown (and call them things like cognitive, emotional, and compassionate empathy). But the point is, you haven’t really thought about it all. You’ve been too busy doing it.
But when we write to people, we start thinking too hard
I’d like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by the red wine on your flooring. Investigations are ongoing into how the glass came to be destabilised.
A lot of people who write to customers have been conditioned to be more humanoid than human. They’re told to state the facts, and often go into lots of detail about what happened (even when the reader is probably much more interested in what happens next). They get uncomfortable, and retreat from the situation behind walls of formal words and passive sentences. Maybe they want to do something a bit more helpful, but computer says no. And, if we’re honest, some stock replies are designed to avoid taking responsibility.
But the same person who writes these messages can sit in their friend’s living room and instinctively react when they drop a glass. So if your brand comms lack empathy, and you want to fix that, don’t look at the people. Look at the process.
Your people are wonderful, quirky, creative, and articulate. Let them be.
What are you doing that’s stopping them showing those qualities at work? Does everything have a template, and it’s too much trouble to change it? Or does your process stop them doing what they instinctively know would be the most helpful thing? Some cultures make people scared to stick their neck out and do things differently. Or they struggle to find the right words – especially when it’s a tricky subject.
When we work with teams, we tackle all those things. We explore how you can change the way you work to let people be more naturally empathetic. And we teach clear writing skills so that they can confidently – and compassionately – handle any issue that comes their way.