Empathy is Our Customer Acquisition Strategy

I have always considered myself a really good listener. I’m the kind of guy in touch with his emotional side. It has been an asset to my business and in my relationships with my customers, as well as in my personal life. But lately, I’ve been thinking that I need to go beyond listening and focus on empathy, especially in business. Empathy creates an amazing business experience and opportunity. Remove any preconceptions about your customers; don’t judge. Listen to every word and feel the energy and tone coming your way. The crazier the request — one that to us as business owners may seem so no-brainer — the greater the opportunity you have to educate and deliver a solution with impact. When you deliver more than they expect, they will remember what you did and tell everyone they know. Empathy in business is our customer acquisition strategy.

Recently, a new customer of mine couldn’t see the new web site that we built for him. No matter what link I sent him, it would display the old web site each time he clicked the link to view the homepage. This was all very strange and a little unsettling for him (and understandably so). His customers were seeing the new site, but, because he could not, he didn’t trust that we had delivered.

When we got on the phone to talk about it, I quickly understood that it was a caching issue isolated to his computer. He had no idea what I was talking about. I backed up and discussed how assets are transferred from the web server to his computer, while we ran a few tests together. We walked through the entire process. We changed a setting on his machine and, just like magic, he could see the full site without issue. He was very happy about how we worked through the process and solved the problem he was having.

He was still wondering, “Why doesn’t my computer come with instructions to tell me how to do this. I wish my computer had a manual that explained these things.”

I simply said, “You hired us to handle these things, so you don’t have to think about them.” My customer hired us to do something that he and his staff could not do. We delivered more than they expected and set the foundation for an ongoing relationship.

Another customer, a non-profit, researched Stripe, which we had recommended for online donations for the organization. Some reviews suggested that customer service was an issue with Stripe, so they investigated other online payment solutions. When we spoke, they voiced their concern. I reminded them that we are their customer service; they won’t have to worry about anything like that. Perhaps they are used to doing things themselves, or worried about having to do so. They were relieved to learn that they didn’t.

This interaction got us thinking about how Stripe works with non-profits. We had a sidebar with them and discovered that Stripe was rolling out a program with discounts for non-profits. The result was a half-percentage point discount on processing fees. We took the initiative to ensure a seamless process, because we listened and wanted to deliver more than our customer expected — not just an answer to their question, but action beyond expectation.

In both cases, there was a complete disconnect. A computer manual is not going to tell you how to use the Internet. And no longer does a customer have to be on his or her own when it comes to customer service. It is not the customer’s fault, just ever-changing technology that may or may not involve mutually inclusive relationships between platform and user.

Cases like these are becoming more common as the Internet evolves. There are so many options, so many solutions, and not enough time in anyone’s day to manage all of it. What’s my solution as a business owner when my customers need guidance, solutions and customer service? Be their all-in-one. Be their listening ear. Put myself in their shoes and see things from their standpoint.

I start with an empathetic ear. I’ve been in this business a long time, and I’ve seen and heard a lot. My job is to make the Internet of Things easy and seamless for my customers. When a frustration or a question arises that may initially seem ridiculous, it comes from a different experience and I go into it wanting to understand that perspective rather than judging and getting frustrated. It breaks down barriers and creates a foundation for a good relationship. We don’t just say it, we live it.

There are so many levels of knowledge. We can’t assume that our customers know what we are talking about. Jumping to conclusions or prejudging their lack of awareness will be unhelpful to you and to them and likely will create mistrust. Remember, you are the expert they are hiring to do something they can’t. Listen and learn, then empathize and educate. They are great business tools.

Scot Rumery

Business advisor, database engineer and web developer specializing in technology implementation.

I have always been interested in how things work. I’m excited about making things better and I am deeply interested in the process, taking the time to understand why and how, listening and learning. Why is something set up a certain way and what makes it work? How can we make it better?

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