Considering the number of companies with similar offers and the fact that many face-to-face interactions are going digital, your brand must compete to remain authentic and maintain the trust of its clients.
Technology helps simplify tasks, but your front staff is still your most valuable resource when it comes to connecting with customers. Your ability to fill frontline positions with the right people directly impacts the perceived trustworthiness of your business and its long-term success.
You may have the best omnichannel CRM solution, revolutionary products, and the strongest brand image, but if your public facing employees are unable to consistently rekindle the romance that seduced clients in the first place, you might be up for a breakup. Whether on your brick-and-mortar retail floors or behind their computer screens, your customer facing workforce is your best asset, not only to welcome clients into your brand’s universe but also to activate product and stories that create long lasting relationships resulting in additional sales.
Most competences demanded from a frontline agent can be learned through training. However, they will be of limited use if your representative is lacking the essential ingredient to any successful human interaction: empathy; the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. This ability naturally puts empathetic individuals in a customer-centric perspective. It enables them to understand the client’s feelings, needs and motivations and is a crucial factor in building lasting trust resulting in customer loyalty.
Job hunters able to wear a courteous demeanour during an interview or for 8 hours a day for a limited period are plentiful. Individuals naturally inclined to help others and systematically able and willing to see things from the client’s point of view are less common. With studies showing that empathy is declining over generations, identifying your ideal future front staff will require all your attention. This said, it is worth the effort when considering the consequences of recruiting a mismatch.
Adding a seemingly competent person lacking empathy to your organisation is like placing a piece of rotten fruit beside perfectly good fruit, the rot will spread. It will compromise the morale of your team, lead to reduced engagement and productivity, increased absenteeism and eventually, employee turnover. Sooner or later, this will result in customer defection and significantly impact your success.
So how do you go about finding and keeping the empathetic jewel cut for your front staff job opening?
Detecting empathy in a person is no exact science and your gut feeling and emotional intelligence are essential when searching for the right match. Nevertheless, the following tips can help predict what hides behind an applicant’s perfect manners and appearance:
- Empathetic people often have an open posture, a calm and grounded attitude and they are fully present in the discussion, giving all their attention to you, what you say and how you say it. Their presence puts people at ease, and they have a serene, confident, and benevolent tone of voice Their smile is deep and sincere.
- As active listeners, they often pause, node and repeat what you say. Humble by nature, they are more likely to ask questions than put themselves forward.
- They are patient, notice small details in their surroundings and enjoy deep meaningful conversations.
- Comfortable with silence and eye contact, they will wait for their turn to speak and often pause and look inwardly before speaking.
- They think in terms of alternatives, use nuanced language and positive, cooperative words like: together, common, collaborate, contribute, joint effort, synergy, teamwork, assist, rather than superlatives describing themselves and their achievements.
With all the benefit associated with empathy in business, should you include it in your company culture? A successful business strategy should focus on what creates value for customers and employees. If empathy is missing from your business’s values, you are unlikely to attract job applicants naturally inclined to help customers or retain employees possessing this quality. Clients are willing to pay the price to receive appropriate care and employees feeling cared for spontaneously become brand ambassadors. Therefore, this happily ever after combination seems to be an excellent alternative to develop a healthy culture able to consistently drive profitability.
About the Author
Sebastien Baranyai is a customer experience specialist with 15 years’ experience collaborating with companies ranging from start-ups to major luxury brands.