Our septic tank at home isn’t working properly – not a problem you want to have as the warmer weather arrives, believe me!
And apparently, it’s not an easy problem to fix because we need to relocate it. This meant that on Monday, during a summer’s day, the drainage engineer spent hours digging several deep holes through clay soil to test the drainage.
It was hot, boring and tiring work.
I kept the guy going with tea, coffee, cold drinks and biscuits throughout the day.
At 7pm, as he was leaving, he thanked me profusely for the hospitality. It did not feel as if I had done much, . But he explained that in his 5 years’ experience, less than half of his customers ever offer him any refreshments. Now, is it me or is this an example of total lack of empathy for someone literally doing a crap job! And what does it say about us if we treat people providing such a service as if they don’t matter?
It got me thinking about how important small acts of empathy can be in any situation. It is often a simple human connection that makes the biggest difference.
And it makes a huge impact in any service business. Recently, I was having trouble getting my bank to transfer money from one account to another within the same bank. Should have been easy, right? Wrong! I went through hoop after hoop. I was put on hold, cut off and passed around what seemed like many times. It seemed impossible. In sheer frustration, I stomped into my local branch demanding retribution. I was introduced to a young guy, the ‘customer relationship manager’ and I must admit I thought talking to him would be another waste of time. But he listened to my story and when I had finished ranting, he said ‘I totally get what you are saying and I agree we have handled this really badly; I am going to sort it out. I feel annoyed on your behalf.’
And he sorted it whilst I sat there. The effect of this simple demonstration of empathy, was to stop me changing banks!
Small acts of listening and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes make a huge difference in how it feels to be on the receiving end of any service.
But how much do we do to help people develop this important life skill? It’s a valuable lesson to all of us and we should pay more attention to that in all parts of our lives.