It’s no secret – caring is a fundamental human need that triggers positive feelings. And a recent study reveals that patterns in human brain activity associated with empathy and caring are also associated with value and reward. Caring was found to inspire helpful behaviors, which seems logical — and foundational.
The “Golden Rule” idea actually underscores our entire human experience. Donald Pfaff, who heads the Laboratory of Neurobiology and Behavior at Rockefeller University, and author of The Neuroscience of Fair Play: Why We (Usually) Follow the Golden Rule, has proven that we are naturally programmed to treat others as we’d like to be treated ourselves.
We are programmed to care. We naturally want to do the right thing. And as employees, we are drawn to companies that allow us to do so. As customers, we become emotionally attached to companies who consider our lives when they make decisions.
Did you know that altruism is a hardwired function of the human brain? According to Pfaff, we take altruistic and caring actions because a neural mechanism leads us naturally down this path. The formation of this path creates a pattern and tendency for serving the best interest of others. It’s our internal wiring for being empathetic—for treating others as we’d like to be treated ourselves.
What is Care?
- The provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something.
“Caring” is typically defined as “displaying kindness and concern for others.” Similarly, “to care” nets out at “feel concern or interest; attach importance to something.”
Our Opportunity: Wire “Care” into Our Business Behaviors
As CX practitioners, our opportunity is to wire “care” in our business behaviors. However, not all companies behave in this manner when it comes to their customers and employees. A 2007 Harvard Business Review article (“Companies and the Customers Who Hate Them,”) noted that “one of the main propositions of marketing is that customer success begets loyalty and loyalty begets profits. Why, then, do so many companies make their customers feel that they put their own needs above the care of their customers by binding them with contracts, hidden fees, fine print, and otherwise penalizing them for their business?”
The unfortunate answer is that, in many cases, taking customers for granted or not caring for them could still produce strong quarterly returns. Back then, there was no compelling case for changing behavior.
But that was 11 years ago, and in the past decade, we’ve seen the rise of the CCO, a renewed focus on customer experience, and the understanding that organic growth of customers can only be reached by treating customers with respect, dignity and an experience they want to repeat.
The Importance of CaringAs a basic human being, caring is obviously of great importance. We’re all social animals who want to feel respect, connection, and community with others. That’s the core of the entire human existence. In my newest book, Would You Do That to Your Mother? The “Make Mom Proud” Standard for How to Treat Your Customers, I stress the importance of showing our humanity in how we do business with customers and each other. It’s our humanity and our ability to care that makes all the difference in the lives of our employees and customers.
These days, it becomes all too common that the organizational design and market factors impacting a company make it hard for them to prioritize caring — for their customers or employees — at a high level. Many decision-makers in companies have large groups of family and friends. They care about them. They understand what caring is and what it looks like. But in a work context, there are so many pressures and political forces and tasks that need completion — and those often drive priority.
Thankfully, research supports the value of caring for customers, which not only feels good but is now proven to impact the bottom-line at organizations of all kinds.
External Empathy and Care is Tied to Internal Caring
When engaging with customers, we’re talking about external empathy and caring. But that’s closely tied to internal caring – how you treat your employees. It would logically stand to reason that an unhappy/disgruntled employee, not feeling cared for, won’t perform well when customers come calling. Right?
This connection has been supported by research from Kim Cameron at the University of Michigan and others:
In research published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Cameron explains that when organizations apply these practices, their performance levels dramatically improve: “They achieve significantly higher levels of organizational effectiveness — including financial performance, customer satisfaction, and productivity.” He adds that the more compassionate the workplace, “the higher the performance in profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction and employee engagement.”
Profitability, productivity, customer and employee engagement all on the rise? Who wouldn’t take that?
How to care more… Internally:
- Show respect to your employees. Listen to them and don’t hide behind tech platforms and emails
- Have above-market compensation
- Allow people time to work on projects not related to their daily tasks
- Highlight accomplishments all over the chain at all-hands meetings and in weekly emails
- Ask employees what they want from the work
- Move people to new divisions in which they show interest and competence
How to care more… Externally:
- Find your core differentiators as a brand
- Look at what the best customer experience brands are doing
- See how these practices can relate to what you do
- Train, train, and retrain your people who face customers in how to approach and converse with them
- Think about every action: “Would I be comfortable if my mother were the customer here?”
Companies that prioritize care and compassion (as detailed above) are characterized by congruence of heart and habit. The consistency of knowing and feeling what is right, paired with decision making that yields to the natural tendencies firing inside us, make these elevated companies beloved inside and out. What drives their decisions is the beating heart. It’s the measure of how much the right cortex of the brain is present around the conference table.
Today’s best companies—where employees and customers prosper—enable behaviors for care, allowing their people to take the best version of themselves to work and “Make Mom Proud.” And we each have what it takes, calling upon the foundational values and behaviors we’ve formed from the beginning, from the early age. Caring counts in great measure, and our teams, customers and clients depend on it to shape our best performance.
Today’s best companies—where employees and customers prosper—enable behaviors for care, allowing their people to take the best version of themselves to work and #MakeMomProud #CX #CustExp Click To Tweet
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These tips will help you develop a team full of employees who can foster empathy both internally and externally, ultimately helping your organization become one that makes mom proud!