The following is adapted from The Smartest Person in the Room.
Clients want to know that the people they hire to handle their cybersecurity care about their unique issues and understand their concerns. So when your technical employees lack empathy — and they make it obvious to clients — it can be a real problem for your company.
Non-Empathetic Technical Employees Turn Clients Away
You can’t be right there to touch your customers and clients physically. Still, an empathetic listener with knowledge about your company can lay to rest many cybersecurity fears for your clients.
Not only will your technical workers fail to create effective solutions if they don’t understand a client’s problem, but they might even drive potential clients away before they decide to do business with you.
If you want more satisfied clients for your company and fewer miscommunications, you’ll want to train your technical employees in the finer arts of empathy.
A Lack of Empathy Hurts Employee Performance
First, it’s important to understand why empathy matters in serving cybersecurity clients. Who cares if we care?
As cybersecurity professionals, we need to empathize with our clients and put ourselves in their shoes to provide the best, most effective service. We need to be able to identify with them to understand their needs better, recognize the risks, and do a good job securing their data and systems.
So many cybersecurity people fail to consider their clients’ specific needs when developing strategies to secure their data and devices. Instead of effective solutions, they create overly complicated security frameworks that leave their clients vulnerable to attack.
Securing data — your client is afraid — soothe them
They might tell clients things like: “To secure your data, you need to do all one hundred items on this checklist.” The client may ask, “I don’t have the resources to do all of that. Tell me the most important things to do.” The cybersecurity staff will likely respond with, “you need to do all one hundred items.”
For most technical people, it’s all or nothing — don’t be this way.
They have difficulty empathizing with a client’s lack of resources, for example, so they can’t come up with simple solutions. As a result, all one hundred items on their framework get done at 5 percent, and nothing is fully completed. This result works to the cybercriminals’ advantage by leaving the client’s system vulnerable to attack.
Damaging Client Relationships
To show you how a lack of empathy can damage your relationship with clients, I want to share a story from my own cybersecurity company’s past.
Once, I sat in on a kickoff call with a new client, my chief operating officer, and one of my technical employees, Doug. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Doug lacked people skills, including empathy.
The client, a new chief information security officer (CISO), wanted us to do a cybersecurity assessment for his company, but he was nervous. He had never done one before and needed to report the results to his CEO. “Please keep me in the loop. I have no idea what to expect, and I’m worried about it,” he told us.
As the project progressed, I was shocked to learn Doug wasn’t keeping the CISO in the loop, which he had specifically requested. He was emailing the CISO weekly with updates per our company’s standard operating procedure, yet this was only a two-week engagement. This client requested to be updated frequently and expressed nervousness about the testing, which should have been a clue to increase communication.
If Doug had been empathetic to the CISO’s anxiety about running a cybersecurity assessment, he might have thought to send updates daily, not weekly. His lack of empathy had the potential to impact the relationship with our client negatively. Fortunately, we caught this after a few days and asked Doug to send daily updates. We explained to him why this was important—that it is our job to provide value, make them secure, and give them a great experience.
The “great experience” part is often the missing piece because it requires people skills. Everyone wants to be understood and appreciated. Clients, too.
Aim to Provide a Great Client Experience
As Doug proved, your technical workers need to have empathy to provide a great client experience. In fact, you should want any employee who interacts with clients to improve their people skills. Clear, effective communication is critical to a successful security outcome and long-lasting relationships with your clients. Remember, a lack of empathy in your technical people directly impacts the service you can provide.
Understanding the clients’ needs
Unempathetic cybersecurity professionals will likely perform subpar work because they don’t fully understand your clients’ needs. Moreover, if you tolerate poor people skills in your technical employees, it’s only a matter of time before they offend, ignore, or drive off a valuable client.
Ask yourself this: if you owned a restaurant, would you hire servers who were rude to your customers? Of course not. Even if the food were top-notch, the overall customer experience would suffer if patrons had to deal with bad service or dirty napkins. Having unempathetic technical people at your cybersecurity company is no different.
Give your tech people — people skills.
In short, to provide a fantastic client experience, you’ll want to train technical employees in people skills. Ensure that your team demonstrates empathy when interacting with clients. Teach them to listen to your clients’ problems and communicate their solutions clearly.
If you train your current employees to practice empathy and screen for people skills in any new hires, you’ll be able to build a team that can skillfully navigate both the technical and social aspects of the cybersecurity business.
For more advice on managing an effective technical team, you can find The Smartest Person in the Room on Amazon.
Image Credit: alex green; pexels; thank you!