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A Business Case For Training In Empathy

Not just for the high street ...


Some top companies are investing more of their training budgets into developing empathy because it is shown to build successful leadership, improve performance and improve the customer experience ...

Empathy is important not just on the high street, but for every business that needs repeat business!

Empathy is important not just on the high street, but for every business that needs repeat business!

photo by loudge on unsplash

The common definition of empathy is, "put yourself in another person's shoes". It sounds easy, but in reality, many people find it really difficult; and it is more complicated than that, especially in this age of automation and technology.

"So, you would think there would be more training on empathy in the workplace!"

Yet, more budget is allocated to online technical training than essential soft skills. This has to change as it is acknowledged that empathy is one skill we have as humans that AI can't currently replicate.

The large businesses out there that are investing in training empathy such as LinkedIn, Tesla Motors, and John Lewis are doing it because it makes business sense. Development Dimensions International's research shows that empathy tops the list as the most critical driver of overall performance. Also, the top 10 most empathetic companies on Harvard Business Review's Global Empathy Index generate 50% more earnings than those ranking at the bottom.

The Global Empathy Index ranked the top 10 most empathetic companies as:

  1. LinkedIn

  2. Microsoft

  3. Audi

  4. Three

  5. John Lewis Partnership

  6. Sony

  7. Google

  8. Nike

  9. Direct Line

  10. Boots UK

How does empathy affect customer experience? Well, put simply, empathy is shown to increase customer satisfaction. The same Harvard Business Review research reports the effects of empathy training at Telefonica Germany. They implemented an empathy training program, and within six weeks of the program's start, customer satisfaction increased by 6%.

A recent news report on UK TV talked about, "the death of the high street" and put it down to lack of empathy for the customer. As a customer myself it rings true. If you are going to get robotic service, you may as well shop online, which of course, is what we are doing. If the high street is to survive, it needs to make its customer experience more human, not less human and empathy from leaders and staff is a very important factor in making this happen.

Empathy is not just an emotional response, it is also an intellectual one, so if we are able to make intelligent and empathetic decisions about what customers need, they will come back again and again.

For example, if a mother wants to take her baby shopping, it is more than buying stuff, she is looking for some time out. If she gets dirty, cramped baby changing facilities and staff in outlets that treat her like a nuisance, she will shop online and find something else to give her that time out.

How to develop empathy in your business:

  • Incorporating empathy into the organisational culture from the top down by demonstrating empathic leadership and highlighting the importance of managers showing empathy for their employees. Organisations can establish the values of caring, understanding and developing others as desirable leadership traits, and emphasise that giving time and attention to their employees can enhance not only employee performance, but also leadership effectiveness. This will then filter down, helping to develop empathy for your customers as well.

  • Help staff develop good listening skills through training and coaching. To understand others and sense what they are feeling, employees must be good listeners, letting customers and colleagues know they are being heard and that their concerns and problems are understood. Employees need to develop active listening skills, including the ability to reflect the feelings being expressed, read nonverbal cues, withhold judgment, clarify misunderstandings and summarise the conversation. Listening to people makes them feel respected, builds trust and strengthens relationships.

  • Including the topic of empathy in training programs, and encouraging employees to take into account the experience and perspective of others when they are resolving issues, managing conflict and dealing with customers.

Make empathy important; this is vital, and senior leadership need to take about empathy and see it as important as any other business skill. They need to stop thinking of empathy and soft skills such as listening as fluffy nice to have and see them as vital to the survival of their business especially if they are customer-facing.

Until next time ...


Would you like to know more?

If you'd like to help your team learn real empathy, do give me a call on 01908 511 062, leave a comment below, or click here to ping over an email and let's see how I can help you.

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About Debra Stevens ...


I'm the founder of DTS, which was established in 1996. A highly successful experiential training company specialising in facilitating behavioural change in all aspects of dealings with people, whether in customer service, sales, management or with colleagues and teammates.

I've managed large contracts such as Pearson Education, Coca Cola, Penguin Books, Accenture, and Santander for over 21 years and have built up excellent relationships with key sponsors of all aspects of the businesses.

I'm a successful trainer, writer and speaker with nearly 30 years' experience of training people at all levels.


01908 511 062