Understanding your Customer: Empathy

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was recently asked to give a brief presentation on a Empathy for clients in stressful situations. I started thinking about those situations and what comes up in the mortgage industry (see a few of my previous posts for case in point). Although I find it easy to show why and where empathy, or concern and understanding for your customer, is important in these extreme situations I had a minor revelation that I believe not only pertains to business, but to life in general.  Maybe these thoughts are the core of why I feel I understand my clients well and can relate to each and every one.

The  striking thought that washed over me in my brainstorming session:  Empathy does not start when an extreme situation occurs. It’s required at that point, but without an emotional connection beforehand, weathering the most stressful moments with ease will be nearly impossible.

Empathy begins the first moment you meet. In business and in life in general, the most meaningful connections are built on taking the time to understand someone other than yourself, walking in their shoes, so to speak. When talking to a new client, I want to understand what their life is like, what their values are, what makes them happy and what they worry about.  In a sense, it’s very similar to the conversations you have when you meet a love interest. “What makes you tick?”  If you don’t take the time to get to know a client or a friend on a personal level, you can’t fully understand how a stressful situation is affecting them.  If you lack that understanding, you also lack the ability to help them weather the storm in a way that fits them.  

We all handle stress differently. In my little mortgage world, if a home purchase isn’t closing on time, everyone is immersed in this stressful event and the only way to alleviate the stress is to have the solution to completing the mortgage AND knowing how to guide the sellers and buyers through the uncertainty on an emotional level.  Sometimes, that’s trouble shooting the logistics of living situations, sometimes it’s simply reassurance that’s needed and other times it’s making the phone calls to the moving company for them. The point is, no two people are the same and because of this, what they need to work through a situation will not be the same.

Empathy begins with a conversation. It is an earnest and caring compassion.  A willingness to understand something new.  A want to connect on a personal level. In it’s boiled down essence, Empathy is the definition of my business and life philosophy. I firmly believe that this core value is the reason I get a text out of the blue from a client asking how my family is doing.

Empathy is the single most important factor in being successful and fulfilled in each of our lives. That may sound a little ‘preachy’, yet, I challenge you to look at the client or friend that brings the strongest feelings of happiness and satisfaction and tell me that you’re ability to relate and understand each other has nothing to do with that joy.

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