Practicing Customer Empathy Is A Powerful Yet Simple Strategy That Can  Single-Handedly Transform Your Business cover image
11 Feb 2013

Practicing Customer Empathy Is A Powerful Yet Simple Strategy That Can Single-Handedly Transform Your Business


Why are some people more successful than others? Frequently it’s due to them having a better philosophical strategy. They approach everyone they deal with in a totally different and more effective way than anyone else does. And while their competitors are usually unable to figure out this strategy, it is one that anyone in business can successfully employ by simply changing your focus from “ME” to “YOU”.

This is true whether you own a business or work for one. This simple adjustment in your focus is the key to what I believe is the most powerful business strategy you can employ. Once you begin to use it you will stand out in the minds and cheque books of your customers as the very best there is.

Creating empathy with your customer is quite simply the ability to put your customer’s needs in ahead of your own. When you master that, your success will naturally follow.

If it seems backwards to put your customers interests ahead of your own, that’s understandable. In fact, that is the reason so many businesses are unremarkable, unmemorable, and ultimately unsuccessful.

It’s amazing how many people and companies will do whatever it takes to make a one-time sale, rather than taking time to understand the customer’s desired outcome. And then having the courage and concern to tell the customer what they really need is much less than they told you they wanted. You may, when you take this approach end up with a smaller initial sale, but you will have made a new friend, someone who will remember you the next time. And will no doubt, tell their friends about you and your business.

Having empathy with your customer is a powerful yet simple strategy that almost single-handedly can transform your business or career. It makes people want to do business with you rather than your competitors. It will give you an uncanny insight into what people want, and why they act and react in various ways.

It will turn customers into literally friends for life. And it will strengthen your passion and connection with everyone you associate with. You need to understand the true needs of your customers and how to approach them in a way that results in their complete satisfaction and long term loyalty to you.

 A Client Not A Customer

Consider the definition of these two words … Customer: A person who purchases a commodity or service. Client: A person who is under the protection of another. If you use the word customers, that’s fine.

But always think of them as clients. And when you start to serve clients rather than sell clients, the limits on your business success will disappear. What exactly does “under your protection” mean? In this case it means not selling a product or service just so you can make the largest one time profit possible.

You must understand and appreciate exactly what they need when they do business with you – even if they can’t articulate that exact result themselves. Once you know the final result they need and you lead them to that outcome – you become a trusted advisor who protects them. And they have every reason to remain your client for a lifetime.

When a dad comes into your store to buy his six year old son his first bicycle, what’s he looking for? Does he just want a bicycle? No. He’s looking for one of the most joyful, sharing, experiences of a lifetime – teaching his son how to ride a bicycle. Just like his dad taught him to ride a bicycle when he was six. He’s looking for a memory that will last the rest of his life and his little boy’s too. He’s looking for that once in a lifetime moment when his son, smiling ear to ear and speeding down the street, yells, “Look, Dad I’m riding a two wheeler!” So, do you sell the father and his son the top of the line, highest profit margin bike in the store?

Maybe, if that’s the best solution to your client’s problem. But you should definitely tell the father that you’ve seen hundreds of dad’s come in and buy their child’s first bike and you know what a wonderful experience he and his son are about to have. Possibly a less expensive model would be better for his son.

It’s the little fellow’s first bicycle and he may crash into a tree or two. You make the sale and you just became a trusted advisor to the father. The father realises you just didn’t sell him a product. You “protected” him. He became a client. In a couple of years his son will need a new bike. Where do you think he’ll go to buy it? And at the point of the sale, the high profit margin model might be the best choice. Maybe the entire family will want bikes to ride together. And when the time comes for the little boy to buy his son his first bicycle, where do you think he’ll go? Having empathy with your client doesn’t apply only to selling products and services.

This strategy is equally important to anyone in any business situation. If you’re in administration, customer service, shipping – any department – you should use the strategy for dealing with everyone. Be a problem solver, not a problem bringer. Add value to every task you undertake. Clients can look at you as a trusted friend who is providing a service that will benefit them in some way. Not just because you helped them, but because they will want to continue to take advantage of the valuable service you provide them. Whatever you do, if you focus on giving value and advice instead of manipulating and manoeuvring, you will win over many more prospects and you’ll be rewarded in ways you’ve never dreamt of.

Falling In Love

One of the biggest mistakes, probably the biggest mistake, people make in any business is that they fall in love with the wrong thing. They fall in love with their product, service or business. But you should fall in love with your clients

Awesome service is admirable but trite. Falling in love with your clients means taking responsibility for their wellbeing and putting their best interests ahead of your own.

Most people say “What do I have to say to get people to buy?” Instead they should say “What do I have to give? What benefits do I have to offer? It has nothing to do with sales shenanigans, trickery or schemes. It has everything to do with the benefits you give your clients.

 The more value you give others, the more value you generate, not only for your clients but for yourself. The more contributions you make to the richness of your client’s lives, the more bonded you will be with them and they with you, and the more successful you’ll become.

Your focus should be that your client’s wellbeing is important to you. And you should see yourself as a creator of value.

 Human Nature

 Mastering the empathy strategy is really understanding and having respect for human nature. Start by considering yourself and how you go about making decisions. Naturally you want to feel good about yourself and the decisions you make in business or just in everyday life.

The beauty of the empathy strategy is that it applies to any business. Whether you’re selling life insurance or you own a hardware store. The steps you must take always remain the same.

You must first identify what your client really needs, even if your client doesn’t recognize what it is they need. The client may think that a particular item is what they are searching for, but if you probe a bit you might see an entirely different solution might solve your clients problem, maybe even a less expensive solution.

Now you have become more than a sales person, you’ve become an advisor. You’ve begun the process of winning trust, and ultimately, additional business from your client.

This approach to business may seem obvious to you. But you’d be amazed to find how few people in business understand this very basic concept. It’s hard for them to understand that they’re really selling solutions to problems, not merchandise.

Selling people what they need, rather than what you have to sell, will set your business apart and create extra repeat and referral business that will astound you.