“Listen to understand, not respond.” This is a quote I live by. It is written on a sticky note on my desk. It basically means, be empathetic.

Empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another…” (Merriam-Webster).  I believe it is a crucial skill when working with clients and delivering a great client experience. If we don’t understand our clients’ needs and expectations, delivering a great client experience is nearly impossible. 

Empathy comes naturally to some, but is a little tougher for others. Thankfully there are tools that can help everyone better employ empathy in their business each day. I have written about Personas and Journey Maps, which are two tools to promote empathy. They are powerful, especially when used together, but they are not the only options. 

Here are two additional ways you can start to tap into the power of empathy.

1. Shift the focus of your meeting notes. Meeting notes usually focus on making decisions and the next steps. One very simple way to practice empathy is start listening for, recognizing and documenting the client’s feelings, body language, and voice inflection in your notes.

For example: a client decides to open an empathy quoteaccount to begin funding a new home purchase goal. Are they smiling when the decision is made? Is their voice upbeat, unsure or matter of fact? Documenting these observations along with the decision will help you further understand the experience the client had. By being clued into their experience, you are better equipped to improve it. 

2. Use empathy maps. An empathy map is a quick exercise that can help you visualize your client’s experience not only with you, but with their life in general. It will help remove your own bias and ground yourself in your client’s needs. 

You can simply draw the 4-quadrant map on a piece of paper. Label the quadrants “Say,” “Think,” “Feel,” “Do.” With the client in mind, begin to jot down quick phrases or words into each quadrant. 

This would be a good thing to do using your meeting notes. You’ll probably see that clients will say one thing, but do another, and that's due to the feelings they have. If you can pull these insights out of them, you are in a better position to ensure your services are meeting their needs, and ultimately help them achieve their goals. 

4-quadrant map

A great client experience is grounded in a deep understanding of the client.  Many very successful companies like Uber, Amazon, and eBay utilized empathetic design practices to build their products and services. These strategies can help bring empathy to the forefront of your interactions with clients, and allow you to truly understand them. With that deep understanding you are on your way to delivering a great experience and even better advice. 


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