Fight Apathy and Earn Customer Loyalty


With Customers, Find Empathy—or They’ll Find Somewhere Else

The decision center of the brain responds to empathy—the first of the Three Core Loyalty Principles. Empathy is our ability to understand the feelings of another person. We may not agree with them, but we get where they’re coming from. Empathy tends to be reciprocal. When people are treated with empathy, they often respond with empathy. And showing genuine empathy to others makes us feel good too.

Most people already have empathy. We just need to help our team show empathy for our customers more often.

Begin by prioritizing customers above other tasks. Most employees want to help but are busy with conflicting priorities. If we want loyal customers, empathy cannot be one priority among many. It has to be at the top of our list; not just for the frontline customer-service team, but for every department in the organization, including product development, systems design, manufacturing, sales, marketing, or billing.

What Does Empathy Look Like?

In practical terms, empathy looks like this: when someone approaches, we set aside what we’re doing and focus on that person. We listen to them with our eyes and ears. Does it take time to show empathy? Yes and no. It certainly requires time in the moment, but we’ll pay a heavier price later if we don’t show empathy now.


The opposite of empathy is apathy. Customers can feel apathy from an organization through a frontline employee’s behavior, a poorly designed website, long hold times on the support line, a complicated bill, or a confusing check-in procedure at a hotel.

In the effort to make customers think they care, some organizations set up systems and processes that are designed to give a feeling of personal service but aren’t rooted in empathy. No one is impressed with scripted responses and phony attempts at empathy, yet we encounter these frequently—from the automatic “Find everything?” at the grocery store check-out, to the robotic “How are you feeling today?” from a too-busy doctor in the hospital.

Leader Application – The Principle of Empathy

A leader dealing with apathetic associates often experiences real frustration with an inability to spark empathy. Pep talks, threats, raises, promotions, and rallying cries only get us so far. So what’s the real solution to a team’s lack of empathy? More empathy from the leader.

Do we know the stories of our team members? Do we know what their lives are like? What they dream of? How their families are doing?

Engage your team to win the heart of every customer with Leading Customer Loyalty. Register for a complimentary webcast today and learn how companies get their frontline teams to act in a way that builds customer loyalty and drives faster growth.

About the Author

Sandy Rogers

Sandy Rogers leads FranklinCovey’s Loyalty Practice. He was previously Senior Vice President at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. During his 14 years there, Sandy managed the turnaround of the London, England operation and led the teams that developed Enterprise’s marketing strategy and system for improving customer service across all branches. Before Enterprise, Sandy worked in marketing at Apple Computer and at P&G. He is graduate of Duke and Harvard Business School.

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