Mindfulness and Customer Focus
Understanding our customers is the key to delivering products and services that meet their needs. Product teams, customer service representatives, sales people etc… all need to be in-tune with their customers. More precisely they need to be in tune with how their customers are feeling about the experience of dealing with their organization. They need to be in-tune with what challenges their customers’ are facing in order to help them. They really need to understand their needs in great detail. Therefore understanding customers requires the skills of empathy and compassion along with other skills such as generous listening and effective communication skills.
Empathy is feeling what the other person feels; being with them and their emotions. Since emotions drive all our decisions it’s important to understand how your customers are feeling. Empathy can be trained and teaching employees to recognize the similarities that exist between themselves and their customers allows them to have more empathy. Dan Eagleman a researcher at Stanford University studied the phenomenon known as in-group out-group bias. When participants recognized that they had similarities with a person in distress they had an increase in empathetic feelings.
Empathy is not the only skill needed and too much empathy can also be a bad thing. Being too in-tune with someone else’s feelings can cause an increase in what researchers call empathetic distress. This happens regularly with front line workers for example. A recent study in France found that 47% of call center employees reported at least one psychologically distressful incident in the past year. In order to inoculate oneself against empathetic distress, compassion training can be used as a buffering skill. There are many studies that show that Mindfulness and compassion training result in a decrease of stress hormones, increase positive emotional affects which result in the lessening of empathetic fatigue and increasing pro-social behavior. Behaviors such as teamwork, collaboration, helping others, less in-group/out-group behaviors etc… improve with Mindfulness and compassion training; Tania Singer et al 2015. These skills and behaviors are very beneficial for employees as they deal with their customers as well as dealing with each other.
The great news is that empathy and compassion are trainable skills. Neuroscience is showing that even adult brains change over time with practice. Neuroplasticity tells us that what we focus on and pay attention to, changes the structure and function of our brains. Over time these skills become easier and more automatic.
There are a number of Mindful practices that can be taught to employees in order to increase empathetic and compassionate skills. When these skills increase, improved sustained customer focus is achieved and overall stress levels decrease. Let us help you develop your Mindfulness strategy to help get your customer service levels to where they want to be.