Empathic Retailing

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Empathy – The ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.

Cambridge Dictionary

I was talking with a friend last week about her recent experience purchasing baby products. My friend was emotionally and physically exhausted from trying to calm her very, unhappy one-year-old baby.

She told me that, out of desperation, she decided to go to a baby store and see if they could help her find a product that would pacify her baby. The store she visited had a large selection of baby products but when she asked for help she was met with indifference. The clerk did not know much about the products the store sold and didn't seem to care.

She decided to visit another baby store. In this particular case, the clerk she approached was a person who happened to have a baby that was the same age. The clerk listened to her, let her know she understood the problem, and led her to the pacifier section. Once there the clerk suggested a pacifier that had worked on her child, which my friend opened on the spot. It immediately calmed her baby.

Not surprisingly, the clerk went on to sell my friend, in her words, "a shopping basket full of additional baby products". So, what do we make of this?

I think the key element between the two experiences was certainly knowledge (clerk one had little while clerk two had a lot) but more importantly empathy. She let my friend know that she felt her urgency, understood her problem and was going to help her.

The clerk wasn't focused on selling my friend a product but on solving her problem. A problem that was highly emotional.

We certainly need to teach sales personnel about the products they sell but perhaps, more importantly, we need to show them how to treat each customer with an empathy that connects the employee with the customer, not as seller and buyer but as people who understand each other.  Who knows, it might result in a basketful of purchases.


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