Empathy – I’ll Know it When I Feel it

Empathy“I’ll know it when I see it” is a phrase often used to describe a thing or situation which is typically subjective in nature and cannot be clearly defined.  However, when it comes to empathy perhaps a better way to describe it is “I’ll know it when I feel it”.

In our workshops we talk a lot about empathy and in fact, it is hard to define.  Empathy is not what we do so much as how it is reflected (or not) in what we do.  As a result, empathy really can’t be seen, but it can be felt.  And, interestingly enough, it is most often felt in the smallest, most common of actions.

I was reminded of the importance of small things that reflect empathy just last week and how it can make such an important difference.  I was at my mother’s house when the HVAC technician arrived to check the air conditioning system before the weather got too hot.   I answered the door to a bright, clean and friendly young man with a warm smile.  Here are four little things that he did during the course of his work that demonstrated that he had empathy.

Warm greeting with a smile.  “Good morning Mrs. Baston.  My name is Eric and I am with ABC Mechanical.  I have come to complete the spring start-up of your air conditioning system.  May I come in?”.

Taking time to understand the customer’s situation.  Before he got to work he asked my mother if she had had any questions about the heating or cooling.  Did everything seem to be working okay?  Any problems?, etc.  He then explained that he would like to start with the programmable thermostat.  He asked if she had any questions about the programming.

Keeping the customer informed.  Eric explained exactly what he was going to do.  Firstly he would check things out downstairs.  When that was done, he explained that he would be going to inspect and clean the air conditioner itself.

Explaining the work that was done.  When completed Eric explained exactly what he had done and went over the checklist while confirming understanding.  He explained that he had found something about the furnace that needed attention and would be putting in a work order for a part to be replaced.  He explained that my mother would be receiving a call in the next few days to schedule the part’s replacement.  “No charge Mrs. Baston.  It’s all under warranty.”  Again, he asked my mother if she had any questions.

Being in the customer service business, I couldn’t help but ask if his company did any customer service training.  “All the time”, he said.  “We talk about customer service constantly.  We take it very seriously and measure our performance.  You know, I always score at the top”, he said proudly.  No kidding, I thought.

So here it was, as fine an example of empathy as one is likely to feel.  Eric did nothing fancy, nothing special, just simple actions that showed that he really did care.  “I’ll know it when I feel it”.  I certainly felt it that warm day in June.

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From caring comes courage.

Lao Tzu

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Posted in Business, Consulting Services, Management, Service
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