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Marketing – the M in empathy, for customer service



Marketing at its core is based on thinking about one’s business in terms of customer needs and satisfaction. Every little aspect that is customer-related is tied one way or another to marketing. Every call, e-mail or direct interaction with a customer is all marketing. This is why organizations invest time and large sums of money to build a positive and trustful relationship with their clients.

What is type of customer that we want to attract? What is the image that we wish to promote for ourselves? What type of communication channels do we have to use with our clients?

All of these three questions lead to improvements to their products or services to potential customers. It is a hard, long and arduous way to go and all of this work can be undone in a few minutes by a bad service experience over the phone, through a rushed e-mail or via face-to-face interaction.

Therefore, how would you like to be treated if the tables were turned? The answer to this question might just be the marketing strategy your company needs to put in place in order to deliver a good customer-centered service.

Everybody is different, customers have different wishes and all kind of reasons for choosing your company. Proper customer interaction will follow their exact needs and good communication will achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction, develop your business and make the overall experience an enjoyable one.

Start by improving your Interpersonal Skills and learn more about Communication. These two skills will lead you to attaining the right mindset and understanding the customer’s needs. Furthermore, mastering your verbal and non-verbal communication is essential, as well as your writing skills for when you have to answer email enquiries and complaints.

Moreover, another key variable is empathy, which at its simplest, translates into awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It is a key element of Emotional intelligence, a link between one’s self and the others around him/her, because it is how we as individuals perceive what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves.

Empathy goes beyond Sympathy, which might be considered “feeling for” someone. Empathy is instead “feeling with” that person, using your imagination.

The following are some definitions for Empathy, to better illustrate the differences between the two.

Empathy – the power of entering into another’s personality and imaginatively experiencing his experiences. (Chambers English Dictionary, 1989 edition)

“I call him religious who understands the suffering of others.” Mahatma Gandhi.

For others, like singer and artist Tim Minchin, empathy is a skill that can be developed and, as is usually with interpersonal skills, it comes naturally to most people.


Empathy is “awareness of others feelings, needs and concerns” as Daniel Goleman states in his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ”. He also notes that at a deeper level, it is all about defining, understanding and reacting to the needs of others’ emotional responses and reactions.

His report is nevertheless an intriguing and practical guide to emotional mastery. In marriage, emotional intelligence means listening to each other and being able to cool down. In the workplace, it manifests when managers give subordinates constructive feedback regarding their performance.

Daniel Goleman identified five key elements of empathy, which I will mention briefly.

The first one is understanding others. In Goleman’s words “sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, taking an active interest in their concerns”. Those who do this:

  • listen well, pay attention to non-verbal communication, “see” the subtlest clues almost subconsciously
  • they show sensitivity and understand others’ perspectives
  • help other people based on their understanding of those people’s needs and feelings

All these skills can be developed if we wish to do so. Some people may wish to switch off their emotional antennae, to avoid being swamped by the feelings of others or for fear of being unable to cope, but these are easily within everyone’s grasp.

Developing others is the second element of empathy, because it helps them grow to their full potential. Positive and constructive feedback will always lead to improvement.

Having consumer-oriented services is the third key to open the door of satisfaction and customers’ loyalty. You put the needs of the customers first and foremost and go the extra mile for them and you will soon find yourself being seen as a trusted advisor for their wishes, having birthed a long-term relationship between your company and its client base.

This can happen in any industry and in any scenario; it all depends on you being able to create and develop opportunities through different kind of people, recognizing and celebrating the fact that we all bring something different to the table. Dare to bring diversity to the way you interact with others, to match their needs and feelings.

A small note regarding empathy: it may not be easy or even possible at times to empathize with all of your customers, but with good people skills and a bit of imagination, we can figure things out eventually.

Last, but not least, diversity leads to seeing the world through the eyes of those who are different from us. This is by far the best exercise any organization can incorporate in their vision, so that they know precisely what kind of customer they want to attract, how to portray themselves to him/her and what type of communication works best with each particular purchaser.

“When you think like this, when you choose to broaden your ambition of concern and empathize with others, it becomes harder not to act, harder not to help” said Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America, when he spoke of the need to fill the ‘empathy deficit’ of the world.

Adding all up, individuals who can empathize with others tend to enjoy better relationships with those around them and greater well-being in life, due to being more interconnected and attentive. Translate this into business lingo and you will soon find out that marketing is the same for your Customer Service department as is empathy for human relationships.

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