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Big Ideas In “The Empathy Economy” #4: Customer Service Is The Toughest Form Of Marketing


I ordered a new pair of Warby Parker sunglasses yesterday and in less than 24 hours they shipped.

This reminded me that customer service is often the best form of marketing and it is also likely the most difficult.

In the Empathy Economy, customer service is more difficult and it is more necessary.

Let’s look at some of the areas I focus on in my work pretty often like sports, professional services, nonprofits.

In sports, too many organizations have sold themselves the idea that people are coming almost exclusively for a game. This has led to many venues being staffed by indifferent customer service staff. It has led to sales teams that are focused on transactions and an environment where the most important thing about the ticket is that it is a commodity.

What if that wasn’t correct?

If we thought about the sports experience from leading with customer service, how would it change the people we hire? How we sell our tickets? And, what we emphasize in our marketing?

In professional services, we often fall trap to the idea that we are selling a commodity: us versus them.

But that is often untrue.

Sure, there are commodities that are available, but in most cases professional service purchases are driven by emotions more than any other purchase because the buyer has their job or their career on the line.

If we were to turn this concept on its head, what would that look like?

Would we lead with price?

Would we focus more on adding value?

Would we work harder to put ourselves in the buyers’ shoes?

Nonprofits are often thought of as doing the lord’s work. But that doesn’t mean that they suffer from a gap in “The Empathy Economy” because often we see that nonprofits are guilty of putting the mission and helping people too far in front of them.

In many cases, maybe the nonprofit tries to do too much to help one person to the point that they hurt the people they are trying to help the most.

This happens because they allow mission creep to take hold of the organization. They allow themselves to jump down a rabbit hole of activities that help people, but hurt their mission.

All the while, feeling good about things because they are helping people…even if they are hurting their mission.

To maximize their impact and still deliver value based on their empathy, nonprofits must focus on the one thing that they do that no one else can deliver as well.

Maybe they are great builders.

Maybe they are great about programs.

Maybe they specialize in one particular activity.

Whatever it is, losing focus on the area that they are best at hurts them and the people they serve in the long run.

That’s something to keep in mind as you move through “The Empathy Economy,” you have to serve people and it is the hardest thing you can possibly do.