Frontline staff and the power of empathy

Frontline staff are not only the face but are in many cases also the heart of a business

Demonstrating empathy, an innate ability to understand the feelings of another, nurtures important interpersonal connections, strengthens confidence and actively supports the development of loyal communities.

What Does Empathy Look Like?

Empathy is not superficially performative and cannot be expressed through inauthentic platitudes. Instead, genuine empathy says:

  • I care
  • I will support you
  • I understand
  • I identify with your situation

Businesses practising empathy consistently communicate to their customers that they sincerely care, which is important because although consumers dislike poor customer service, they overtly loathe careless customer service. Why is this the case? Well, there are a variety of circumstances that could lead to poor service, whereas indifferent service merely says that you simply do not care enough to even try.

Frontline staff are not only the face but are in many cases also the heart of a business. Beyond ensuring that frontline staff receive the training, resources and support they need to deliver first-class customer service and make empathy-driven decisions with confidence, is there anything else that leaders can do to guarantee that compassion and understanding permeates through all levels of a business? Yes, and here are some examples.

Visible Leadership

People in leadership positions can easily pretend that they care about a range of company-related issues, but the one thing that they cannot do is pretend to be present. You are either there or you are not. Frontline staff value the presence of business leaders because it actively demonstrates that decision-makers want to equip themselves with the tools required to make choices that will deliver benefits across the business. Promoting empathy among employees always begins with business leaders exhibiting a palpable desire to learn and grow.

Collective Learning and Confidence

Nobody is immune from making the occasional mistake, but it is how these situations are handled that will determine whether these errors can be also transformed into an important learning opportunity. Leaders who use mistakes to identify learning opportunities will equip their staff with an ability to effectively transform future situations of customer dissatisfaction into customer contentment. Exercising humanity and compassion when interacting with your frontline staff will encourage the integration of those same values into future customer interactions.

Seek to Understand, Not Just Listen

Listening is easy, but hearing, understanding and responding are more complex. Frontline staff want their thoughts, ideas, concerns and opinions to be heard by leadership teams, and when leaders respond accordingly they feel appreciated. Leaders who consistently demonstrate that they value their employees will be rewarded with a buoyant team that collectively has strong self-esteem and the ability to act with empathy when interacting with customers.

Practise Consistent Employee Advocacy

Confident employees intrinsically possess and are more willing to demonstrate the initiative to connect with customers in meaningful ways. Ensuring that staff are recognised for the important contributions they make is essential, and effectively advocating for your team also has the added benefit of increasing performance and engagement levels. There are a variety of ways to advocate for your employees, including ensuring their concerns are addressed, consistently sharing positive feedback and seeking out opportunities for growth.

Empathy is powerful. Staff value it, customers admire it, and leaders need it to demonstrate that they are courageous ambassadors for both their business and their teams.

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The British Institute of Recruiters is the Professional Body operating The Recruitment Certification Scheme

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