As today is “Random Acts of Kindness” day, it would be an ideal opportunity to talk about empathy in business.
Business is hard at the moment; it feels as though everyone is fighting for the same clients and harsh words seem to be flying around social media with horrifying enthusiasm.
A case in point has been an online platform recently announcing the end of their free plan and a new pricing structure. I read the email and waited for the fireworks to begin on their Facebook group…
The immediate posts were bizarrely positive but you could tell more was to come.
After a few hours, it started. Several posts mentioned “grieving” and being “floored” by the news. Replies were sometimes comforting but then the “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” kind of posts took over and it almost took a turn towards personal attacks.
I had only just joined the platform as a free user, dipping my toes in the water before committing to a paid plan. The Facebook group was an extension of their customer care and it was great to read about how others were using it (yeah, I lurked!).
But this zealous element who were shooting other small business owners – people like me – down in flames were not selling the ‘supportive community’ feeling that I had previously. In fact, they were putting me off, and I was beginning to feel sorry for those complaining.
Then I took a deep breath and remembered Atticus Finch’s* advice:
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.
The company concerned was obviously acting in a way to protect itself and it’s employees and has been entirely open throughout this whole process: they want to concentrate on giving the best customer service to their paying customers. They are a small, family-led business and their roadmap shows a need to make some changes to allow them to improve what they have and bizarrely, THAT TAKES MONEY.
So I did exactly what Atticus suggested and I came to a similar conclusion – albeit with keeping the free plan but removing the customer service element.
To survive, businesses often have to make decisions that their clients might take umbrage with. However, it’s how they cope with the backlash that will define them going forward. And in this case, the way that they have remained open and upfront, by allowing all comments on their FB group and generally continuing to be accessible, has shown me that perhaps it is worth paying for a subscription. In reality, I bet they want to hide under a rock until it all blows over!
So I urge you as business owners, clients, friends, family members or keyboard warriors, just think about the people who are prepared to go through hell to share their news with you. Put yourself in their position and show a little empathy.
*GCSE English Literature does come in useful some times; thank you, Mrs Jorgensen (RIP).
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