Construction is a hard business known for its machismo. Perhaps that’s why a term like empathy isn’t easily spoken of or passed around. But, just as it takes multiple tools to hang drywall or erect curtain walls, it takes multiple tools to create a customer-centric company culture. Empathy could be the missing element in your customer relationships.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could know exactly what your clients want even before they do? Or, wouldn’t it come in handy to know beforehand whenever you can do something to convert a client pain point into a client joy point? It doesn’t take big data or complicated algorithms to reach these levels of customer care. However, it does take a little empathy.
When you embrace empathy, you gain not only a deeper perspective on what your clients need, but also new insights into your own business.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to radically change our lifestyles and how we work. Stay-at-home restrictions and social distancing have made face-to-face conversations difficult if not impossible, so we all must find new ways to connect and empathize with clients. Even without the ability to meet in person, we can use technology that helps our construction projects continue safely on site while also reducing our clients’ (and employees’) anxiety. Now more than ever before, empathy is becoming an essential tool not only in our personal lives, but our work as well.
Empathy here means understanding. It means being able to put yourself in your client’s shoes and know what it feels like to be them. In essence, it means learning how to treat your customers the way they want to be treated. To get to that state, you have to go to the source in a specific manner.
Here’s why as well as some pointers on how to start using it:
What Do You Really Know?
You might think customer A has told you everything you need to know about what’s hurting them in their relationship with you. But, if you have that impression simply based on your typical communications, the chances are you’re not getting the real picture. That’s because daily business talks are transactional and based on agendas. Sometimes, you need them to make decisions, or iron out a pay request. Other times, they need you to explain an overage, or inform them on a new method. Whether it’s your agenda or theirs, those interactions are mainly about accomplishing something.
Now, suppose you invited your client to a breakfast to just sit and chat? In that environment, you’re more likely to learn how your customer really feels. You are also likely to discover what keeps them up at night and what recurring factors and issues drive them crazy.
If you go into the meeting with no agendas and no expected transactions, you stand a good chance of gaining new understandings about your client.
You might have these “one-on-ones” several times, or you might decide to make them recurring meetups. Through these interactions, you’ll learn how you can care for your customer from an empathic place. That leaves you set up to help them with their goals.
Most of your clients have goals. Those goals come in two flavors, business and life. But, with goals, also come goal blockers. Blockers either crop up consistently or randomly and prevent your clients from reaching their goals. While you might not be causing blockers, it might be within your power to help overcome some obstacles and prevent others.
While you might prefer to stay out of helping them on life goals, the reality is that by helping out on the business side you often affect people’s personal life as well. As you listen to them talk about their goals, you’ll learn about the pain points and problems they face in reaching those goals.
These bits of information can inspire ideas that will benefit both them and you. So, as you listen to them talk about the things they want to do in business, listening being the key here, consider how your actions or inactions affect those goals.
Feelings Run Deep
As you listen, try to cue in on feelings. Whether it’s the actual words, the expressions, or the tone of voice, if you really listen to their message, you will detect feelings hidden behind the words.
For example, if they talk about their goal of bringing down construction costs across their portfolio of projects, do you sense they are frustrated, losing hope, or simply not secure in moving forward? When you pick up on these emotional cues, you can identify with how they are feeling.
You get a deeper understanding of their needs and motivations.
What you are doing here is getting to know your client better. When you manage to do that at the feeling level, you are empathizing. Over time, you might consider how to reduce your customer pain points. Maybe, one of their pain points is coincidently one of yours. When you empathize with multiple customers, you can get a realistic view of how others in your market perceive your company. With that knowledge, you can chart a course that maintains or even improves your reputation.
When you use empathy, it provides a deeper perspective on what your clients need while providing you new insights into your own business.