The Power of Empathy and Multiple Perspectives

The concept of empathy is easy enough to understand at a high level – all we have to do is understand one another, put ourselves in their shoes, right?

In practice, however, when you’re in the trenches of customer service, dealing with people or responding to an email, it’s not always so easy.

But there is a useful method from a champion boxer* we can apply called ‘multiple perspectives’:

In an interview with a commentator, the boxer was asked what he does to get “in the zone” for a fight:

“Well, the first thing I do is I view my opponent and the fight from my own eyes. And I also see the fight from my opponent’s perspective. And finally, I imagine the view from the audience’s perspective, watching us both.”

“So you’re saying you first see the fight from your perspective, and then you imagine it from your opponent’s…”

“Oh no – I see all of this at the same time.”

What he describes is a sense of expanded awareness or consciousness, commonly experienced in extreme sports which require high levels of concentration.

This form can especially be helpful in dealing with customers, clients, co-workers or even your boss.

For instance, when writing an email in response to a customer complaint, imagine seeing the words you type appearing on your customer’s screen, through their eyes, with their emotions. This is what it means to put yourself in your their position.

As you are typing, you can more readily gauge whether you are moving towards a resolution, or away from it – this is incredibly valuable.

At the same time, imagine a third person’s perspective, like watching your customer interaction in a movie. This helps give a greater sense of context. When watching a conflict in a movie, you want to see a resolution (why cliffhangers work). But this has the added benefit of making sure the customer isn’t just taking you for a ride.

Remember, every customer complaint is an opportunity to create goodwill and a positive outcome. To create a ‘wow’ experience, a ‘movie’ they’ll want to tell their friends about, for all the right reasons.
The above method of ‘multiple perspectives’ is a helpful way to foster this.

Guest post written by Vincent G. Chun, REALEdU

*Couldn’t find a reference or attribution for the boxer, this is more to illustrate the method.

Can DISC profiling boost conversion rates?

DISC is a well known behavioural profiling tool that many sales trainers rave about. The tool promises to help salespeople treat prospects the way they’d want to be treated rather than being forced to endure small-talk when they’d rather get straight to the deal or be hard-sold when they want to look at all the numbers before signing. The question is, does the hype live up to reality? Does DISC really help improve conversion rates or does it cause salespeople to play to artificial stereotypes? DISC profiling is generally a relatively expensive exercise with tests costing at least $100 AUD a pop and training coming in at several times that.
If you’re a sales manager, you’re probably wondering if that expense is worthwhile. I’ve done some research and can find no authoritative evidence in peer reviewed business journals showing that DISC profiling actually helps. Furthermore, there are a slew of articles (e.g. this one and this one) arguing against using DISC for hiring because there is no one ideal DISC profile and it’s so easy to cheat the test if you know what the recruiter is looking for (most likely high DI).
Is this the nail in the coffin? Should we abandon DISC? Well if you’re talking about recruiting, probably. Using DISC in recruiting is almost certainly a bad idea because there is really no one ideal DISC profile for sales. What matters most is the flexibility to be able to adapt one’s own style to that of the prospect.
But how about during sales itself? Given that there’s no conclusive data showing that DISC works, should salespeople throw away their DISC textbooks? Hardly – absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There are numerous anecdotal reports (e.g. this article) showing that DISC is working for some people at least.
If you think about it, it is almost unquestionably true that adapting one’s communication style to match the preference of the other person is a good idea. At the end of the day, we’re talking about empathy and there’s a ton of data showing that empathy sells. DISC is merely a tool to help empathise.
Obviously we can’t ask every prospect to fill out a DISC profile before we start talking to them, so the real skill of sales is being able to speed read people. You’ve got a limited amount of time to build rapport, so the onus is on you to rapidly figure out what kind of communication your prospect prefers.
What I’ve been working on is a system to help out with the speed reading by scanning emails, analysing the kind of language they use so we can take a guess at their DISC profile. You can find out more on the FanMail page.

Automatically calculating Net Promoter Score

 Net Promoter Score (NPS) may have its disadvantages but it’s nonetheless the de facto standard for measuring customer satisfaction. Collecting the data typically involves a survey. According to CustomerGauge, one can expect a 10-60% response rate to an NPS survey. 60% isn’t bad at all but I wonder how often the surveys were sent out? Survey fatigue is a very real problem. I can’t find stats on it but I’d speculate that NPS survey response rates would be significantly lower if customers were asked to give feedback after every interaction.
As a tacit example, Zoho Support allows customers to provide a “customer happiness” rating at the bottom of every support ticket email.
customer happiness
It’s super easy to provide a response – you just have to click an image at the bottom of the email. Yet most customers don’t respond. One of my clients has been using Zoho Support for 18 months and averages a 1% response rate to the customer happiness rating.
Furthermore, the responses that do come in are polarised. You get the hyper positive replies and the irate replies but nothing in between. Most of your customers will not be furious/in love with you – they’ll be somewhere in the middle. What side of the middle though? Would they rate you 4/10 or 6/10? Depending on what side of the median your customers are, your business is either doing ok or floundering. How would you know though when you’re only getting raving testimonials or aggressive complaints?
The goal of Empath is to provide more data. By automatically measuring customer sentiment, you’ll get greater insights into how your customers feel about you.

The origins – the SleepOnIt Kickstarter project

Empath began with an (unsuccessful) KickStarter campaign. The original text might give you an insight into our ambitions.

Have you ever sent an email and regretted it? I’ve sent many in my time – one even got me fired from a job! The purpose of email is to communicate the facts not discuss emotionally laden topics like performance issues. What I find though is that when I’m angry, I forget about all the advice from business communication gurus. I hit the send button and ignore that little voice telling me ‘Maybe you should have another think about that’.

Sleep On It is designed to turn that little voice into a foghorn. It will use sentiment analysis technology to quickly scan your email when you press send. If it detects excessive levels of emotion, it will block the sending process and pop up a dialog: “Are you sure you want to send this? You sound pretty annoyed. Maybe a phone call would be better.”

My goal with this project is to reduce workplace conflict. There’s nothing worse than getting an angry email. Unlike a phone call or face to face, the other person doesn’t get the opportunity to see your reaction. I would never say the things I have written via email in a face to face meeting but something about the Gmail interface shuts down my empathy sensors. The recipient becomes an isolated object rather than a human with emotions. 

If you’ve ever sent an email you regret, sign up for Sleep On It and stop your angry self from saying things your logical self would regret.

Sleep On It is a gmail extension that starts work when you press send. It quickly scans the email body for tone and if it detects any anger, it will immediately stop the email send process and ask you to confirm you really want to proceed.

I’m a web developer and will be building this tool out because I really want it for myself. I thought I’d put it on KickStarter to see if anyone else would use it too. 

Since then we’ve realised that a lot of the technology is relatively easy to build and gone ahead and written a couple of sentiment analysis products. We’d love your feedback. Drop me a line at

Spell Check for hate

One of the inspirations for Empath was a comment from Eric Schmidt (Chairman of Google) that the internet needs a ‘spell check for hate’. With rates of cyber bullying on the rise (e.g. see this article about increasing rates of cyber bullying affecting public servants), tools that help filter out inappropriate messages are vital for preserving workplace harmony.

We hope that our range of email and social media filters can help people to go on a ‘negativity diet’ and also catch themselves before they send written communication that they will regret.