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Empathy – A Sought After Skill in Sales and Service

I read an article in 2014 suggesting that “empathy” will be the most sought after skill by employers by the year 2020. While the article speaks about careers and employment, the concept is applicable in our everyday life as well. Having said that, people often get empathy and sympathy confused.

Sympathy: “the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune, etc.: a sympathetic feeling.

Empathy: “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.

In the context of sales and customer service we can show empathy when a customer “needs” something done right away to meet a deadline or a certain expectation. For example, many years ago when I lived in British Columbia, I used to take customers to one of my favorite Italian restaurants for lunch. Many times I would have a reservation and sometimes I didn’t, simply because I wasn’t expecting a customer opportunity for a luncheon. When this happened I would make my first restaurant choice the Italian restaurant.

Great service can come down to the host seating you at your restaurant
Great service can come down to the host seating you at your restaurant

I recall one particular visit when my favorite waiter greeted me at the door with my two guests with me and he asked: “Mr. Mack, do you have reservations?” I replied, no, unfortunately not, but still hope we can get a table.” 
He looked at me and smiled, and said: “Mr. Mack, that now becomes my problem…..right this way I have a table for you.”

That was a great experience that I will never forget. Some may say he provided excellent customer service, which he did, but he really showed empathy when he truly understood my feelings and he knew that I would look good if we could get a table with valued customers.
How can we apply empathy in our daily lives in business, customer service and outside of the office? What if we can understand the feelings of others before we judge or argue our own point of view? 
Perhaps you allow an older person to go ahead of you in line at the grocery store because you sense they are tired of carrying their basket.  Perhaps you go the extra mile for a customer, simply because you know it is the right thing to do.

“The opposite of anger is not calmness, i’ts empathy.” -Mehmet Oz


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