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Empathy is fundamental for companies, but it is not possible to improvise it

The pandemic emergency was not enough in itself to change the approach of companies towards their human resources, not even in a sector such as that of catering, particularly affected by this latest crisis. 

Gianpaolo Grossi, General Manager of the Starbucks Roastery of Palazzo Broggi, in Piazza Cordusio, in Milan is convinced of this:

"Surely in the pre-Covid world of catering was focused exclusively on results and aimed only at this aspect, showing little attention to human being and his needs. And above all, there was no listening. With Covid we all felt vulnerable in the same way and we found ourselves in the same conditions. This situation, in my opinion, has highlighted the need to start working much more empathically, even if the word empathy is often used by people who do not know at all what they are talking about ”. 

According to the General manager of Starbucks, in fact, the pandemic remains an emergency, while empathy is something that can only be developed following a much longer path. 

“Our company has been working in an empathic way for 50 years, what we did in the pre-pandemic we replicated during the lockdown, pulling up our sleeves as before, albeit with different needs and priorities. The safety aspect has become predominant, but if we think about it this is something that should have been taken care of previously, as we have always done in Starbucks. All this to say that empathy is not invented, it is part of people's education: such as, for example, knowing how to say thanks to others and be generous with others, all things that cannot be invented out of the blue with the pandemic". 

What it means to be empathetic  

But what does it actually mean to be empathetic within an organization like Starbucks, which still aims to make profits and profits?  

“All people are focused on results, it is perfectly normal: each of us works and is committed to achieving a result, such as a job promotion. It is necessary to learn to understand that people are guided by skills, individual abilities but also by emotions and feelings. Skills and skills are key, but a leader must learn to influence emotional aspects through empathy. This means being able to touch chords such as motivation, satisfaction, participation, involvement, thus being able to take the people of your team a step further ".  

But if empathy cannot be acquired as a direct consequence of the pandemic, that does not rule out the fact that each of us cannot make efforts to do so. “I always believe that your system can be changed, you shouldn't expect others to do it for you. The path to empathy remains above all a purely individual effort ". 

Heal your team to heal customers  

How has a company like Starbucks managed to build its reputation for being extremely attentive to customer needs, so much so that these places are unanimously considered a pleasant place to spend time? The question, according to Gianpaolo Grossi, General manager of the Starbucks Roastery of Palazzo Broggi, in Piazza Cordusio, in Milan, must be overturned:

"I have always wondered why an operator, when he takes on this role, forgets everything he has lived as a customer. Basically, the work you have to do with your people in the company to make them grow is to teach them to look at things from a different point of view". 

Thus enriching the final customer experience, even if an important distinction must always be made between objective and subjective experience. In fact, there are many companies that work a lot on the objectivity of the things they do, because they may have products of incredible quality, but which perhaps tend to standardize the experience of their customers, without flexibility or variations of any kind. 

First rule: take care of the partner experience 

The subjective experience, on the other hand, is when the operator is able to understand the user's expectations, which can be very different from each other:

“If my customer just wants a quick coffee in the morning, I have to be ready to do it. At the same time, if you want to enjoy the experience and live it 100%, I have to be ready to guarantee it. Here comes our barista, the Starbucks partner who must be ready to interpret customer expectations. Our perspective, not surprisingly, is We always make right, which does not mean that we are phenomena and always do things well, but that if we make a mistake we are always ready to correct them on the run ". 

To ensure a good customer experience, however, it is first necessary to guarantee an excellent partner experience, that is, in the case of Starbucks, that of baristas:

"If my company does not allow me to live my experience in the company in a positive way and, therefore, does not feed me, it will not inspires me, employees cannot automatically return a positive experience to end customers. So it's okay to be customer first, but if you don't care about your people on your team you can rest assured that your customer won't be satisfied. So you have to work on them first of all, who will then take care of the end customers ”, concludes Grossi.