How do we express empathy? What if our hashtag is #IDGAF?
On a recent trip to Aspen, I stayed at a resort where they provided shuttle service into town. I had a free afternoon so I took the shuttle in and spent a couple of hours there, and when I was ready to come back, I called in for a shuttle to let them know I was ready to come back. The driver who drove me into town answered the phone, and said he would be leaving in 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, I called back in, and they said that he must have missed me. I explained I was standing in the exact spot where he dropped me off, and the person on the phone said I must have missed him and they will send another shuttle in 30 minutes… It was now starting to get dark, it was snowing, temperature dropped down to around 20 degrees, and there wasn’t a taxi in sight. I explained that I had been waiting and I need to get back for a dinner. They said they would send someone right away, but once again, the driver never came. I called in a third time and they said they had a driver in town and I should just stand there and look for him to pass by. Just after this call, I saw the shuttle and ran across the street and jumped in. It took 3 calls for me to get picked up so by this point I could have walked back faster…
When I entered the hotel lobby, I asked the people at the front desk what happened to the first 2 shuttles. I was visibly upset and cold. They just shrugged their shoulders and said they didn’t know. They seemed indifferent. They never at one time showed any empathy, said sorry, nothing. At one point, one of them said they could give me a free drink at the bar… I explained that my meals and drinks were hosted by the organization I was with, and walked to my room even more frustrated.
This experience caused me to reflect on the importance of empathy when providing great service to someone. When a client is upset, empathy shines sun into their darkness. We don’t want a free drink. We want to see the service done right and empathy for the pain point when it’s done wrong; we want to know you care.
As I reflected on the importance of empathy in client interactions, I thought about boss and employee interactions, where they go wrong, and realized that in most cases, it’s because empathy is lacking. The employee just feels like a means to an end, versus a human being, when interacting with their manager. The manager can’t understand why the employee is not more engaged. This becomes a viscous cycle that is difficult to unwind after a while.
The reality is people respond positively to empathy, so let’s work on making sure our clients and employees feel that we care. Let’s communicate a little empathy, let’s listen empathetically, and watch our engagement levels skyrocket!