I learned a lesson this week. I was emailing a prospective client back and forth, checking details and dietary requirements, when I realised that a lot of the questions she was asking were not just because she didn’t know her canapés from her aperitifs. Hidden behind the words on the email was a person who was feeling quite anxious about the event they were putting on. Obviously, I can’t divulge details, caterer-client privilege, but as I thought a little about the nature of her event, I could understand why she was pretty anxious about getting things right.
I know I am a people person, my strength is definitely chatting to people face to face, and I love that part of my job. I really make an effort to form relationships with clients and do the best I can to fulfil all their needs. But I think that using emails had disconnected me a little bit from my client’s situation. Once I understood this, I was able to send some words of encouragement and connect a little bit. I wanted to build a good professional working relationship, but much more importantly, I hope she felt a little reassurance from it.
Empathy, putting yourself into the place of another and trying to figure out how they feel and think about a situation, is a real skill that needs practice. Some people are naturally more empathetic than others. However, everyone needs reminding that what they type into an email or social media post affects real people on the other side.
Empathy can also be such an important skill when running a business. Obviously, it allows you to communicate on a day-to-day basis, but it can also help you plan for future clients.
As part of our digital marketing strategy, I often use tools that involve empathy to help plan campaigns to inform existing and potential clients of new products and services. A really helpful tool for this is a “user persona”. You invent a fictional client, a character that matches the customer you are aiming to reach. You then put yourself in their shoes and try and imagine the needs they may have when trying to use your services. Based on this information, you try and tailor your website, social media posts and marketing campaigns to address these needs. The idea is that you address their needs before they become problems and barriers to their using your services or buying your products. It’s not full proof but its a good first step in trying to help your customers get better value for their money (and who doesn’t want that?).
When creating a user persona, I try and list all the worries and challenges that the imaginary client has. I then use a different colour pen to annotate possible solutions that we could try to fix these problems now and in the future.
A User Persona Example
In the photo below my imaginary client has to cater for a business meeting. One of her challenges is that she doesn’t know the dietary requirements of the people coming to her meeting. Although she could ring up and check, there may be additional people attending who she doesn’t know. So, how can I, as the catering company make sure this isn’t a barrier to her choosing my business?
One way is to include a section on how we cater for all dietary requirements on each page of our website. This can reassure her that everything is clearly labelled and everyone will be catered for. She will be reassured and more likely to chose us for her event. I may even make sure I include the phrase “all diets catered for” or similar on my next social media advertisement.
Clients are people with an aim: an event they want catered to a professional and high standard. I really hope that as our business grows, we can ensure that we meet all of their needs before they even realise what they are! That would be the best outcome and our ultimate aim.