Empathy: How to assess your organization’s level of empathy and strengthen your brand
Empathy is a concept that’s easily described: the practice of imagining, or trying to understand, how someone is feeling and what it’s like to be in their situation. It’s not difficult to see how critical empathy would be for brands in any industry. Here is the notion of empathy reframed by Isadore Sharp, Founder and Chairman, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts.
“The reason for our success is no secret. It comes down to one single principle that transcends time and geography, region and culture. It’s the Golden Rule – if you treat people well, the way you would like to be treated, they will treat you the same.”
If this sounds too simplistic to be effective for your brand, know that Sharp accompanies the non-secret with an experience principle that sets expectations among employees and guides them in delivering Four Seasons’ famed service.
“One way to characterise Four Seasons service would be to call it an exchange of mutual respect performed with an attitude of kindness.”
Now we have empathy in action. Four Season’s people work very hard at understanding how their customers are feeling and what it would be like to be in their situation. Employees are given wide latitude to address guests’ feelings as they see fit, historically without the need for excess permission from above.
The Golden Rule has been the foundation of the Four Seasons experience for 50 years. Today, empathy remains important for all brands, and even moreso in the context of recent dramatic social change. Service-industry brands aren’t the only ones that need to prioritize empathy.
How empathetic is your brand?
Today we want to help you begin to assess your organization’s level of empathy in the context of specific components of your brand that can be strengthened.
Empathy can reside in your stated internal truth. Is it evident in your brand’s story and values? Do your brand and people deliver against high stakeholder expectations with genuine empathy?
Does your brand occupy a place in stakeholders’ lives, days and moments? Empathetic brands are more likely to satisfy pre-determined needs, desires and decision criteria.
Do stakeholders experience your brand as empathetic without fail, across all experiences, touchpoints and formats?
If your organization pivots to rise to a challenge or capture an opportunity, can it do so without abandoning your commitment to empathy?
The rewards of genuine empathy
Being an empathetic brand is not dressing CSR in new clothes or espousing an ephemeral purpose that’s difficult to make real and relevant.
The empathetic brand sees people as people, understands their feelings and requirements, recognizes and values their agency, and helps them flourish according to their own unique capabilities and preferences.
The empathetic brand is better equipped to attract likeminded employees, partners and customers. It can build stronger emotional connections and result in more brand loyalty and advocacy and customer referrals.
According to HBR, “the top 10 companies in the Global Empathy Index 2015 increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10, and generated 50% more earnings defined by market capitalization”.
To explore your brand’s empathy, think about its performance using the components above and bring your people together to run scenarios that put them in the shoes of others. Go beyond how it might feel to suffer bad service from a brand. Help them understand how exclusion, whether blatant or insidious, actually feels. Generate actions you and your people can take right away to ensure your brand is attuned to how people feel and what they need.
Empathy. It feels good and delivers the goods as well.