E185 – Empathy in Frontline Workers

Dave starts the show by talking through a story of the heater in his house going out just days after Christmas. The guy that came out to fix it had recently had a bad day but he couldn’t see past his bad Christmas day and not the fact that nearly 10 families were without heat on Christmas and had to call his company for help.

Just the past few weeks hundreds of thousands of families in Texas and across the United States (and in some other countries) have recently run into heat, power and water issues. None of these people wanted to have any of these issues but here they all were at the mercy of so many other people.

For Dave the whole experience was rather uncomfortable as he felt bad for this person but also was currently in a bad situaiton.

  • It was just days after Christmas and now a new unknown and possibly rather large expense.
  • There are kids, animals and adults in a house with no heat that was quickly getting colder and colder in.
  • It was well below 32F outside and within just 5-8 hours of no heat the house had already dipped well into the 60s.


The whole experience left Dave scratching his head in how this person could not see the bad spot that all of these families were in that had called him. Yes is day had been long and ruined but what about all these families likely facing high bills and emergency rates? The lack of empathy by this employee towards me and towards those that had called him in a time of need just made no sense.

For an example of HOW TO properly work with and talk to your customers check out our episode with Jay Sofer – Do You Deal in Trust? How to Unlock it for Your Business W/ Jay Sofer.

Frontline Workers

What training or support do you have in place for your workers? What do you do proactively to invest and train your employees?

Do you ever read reviews, listen to customer service calls, look for trends in reviews and try and understand if it is the customer, a single person or a company/team wide issue that needs to be addressed.

Firing Clients

The customer is not always right – sorry! As an owner/boss/leader at a company you should also be ready to protect your employees from customers that are abusive. This could be on phone/zoom or in person for those employees that are frontline workers – protect your people!

Accommodate your employees when you can and when they need it. If they raise their hand and say “today is just not a good day” see what you can do to help them help you not get into a bad situation.

Full Transcript

Matt Siltala: [00:00:00] Welcome to another exciting episode of the business of digital podcast, featuring your host, Matt  and Dave roar. Hey guys, welcome to another business of digital podcast episode, and a great to have you with us. And, uh, how’s it, Gordon,

Dave Rohrer: [00:00:17] Dave, it is going, going, going.

Matt Siltala: [00:00:20] So for today’s episode guys, we’re just going to jump right into it.

Um, I like this one. I like talking about the subject and, uh, when I don’t like your story, obviously, but I like the meaning behind it and what we’re trying to do with this, but we don’t know necessarily what we’re going to call it yet, uh, for what you guys are reading, but it has to do with empathy and, um, who has it?

Do you have it, Dave? Do I have it? The business owners have it. And so this comes from a, you know, a experience that you had where. You weren’t, you were, was not so much given to you, but, uh, [00:01:00] you know, let’s just chat about that and we’ll go from

Dave Rohrer: [00:01:02] there. I will, I will gloss over some of the details, um, because this happened a couple of months ago, but, um, basically my wife woke up at like 1:00 AM, some noise kind of woke her up.

She didn’t know what it was. Um, looked around kind of listened to, she didn’t hear anything went back to sleep. It was about what was it? I’m looking at my notes. Cause yeah, it was a couple months ago. Um, it was like 3:00 AM. She woke up her, so, and she was like, and woke me up and she was like, it’s fricking can cold in the house.

And I’m like, it’s always cold in our room. She’s like, no, it’s really cold. I’m like, yeah, yeah, let’s talk my arm out. It was super cold in our room and I’m like, Maybe she’s right. Got up, walked over, grabbed my phone. Didn’t want to turn on any lights. Went up to our little thermostat, hit the up button, hit the down button, nothing worked.

And I was like, well, that’s not good, no. Walked back out to the other side of the house. Um, there’s another thermostat that [00:02:00] controls a different area, you know, turned on the light. And I was like, maybe I’m just not awake. It’s three in the morning. This is, you know, I, I get up early, but not today. And, you know, Pushed it up, pushed it down, turned it off, turned it on nothing.

I’m like, Oh, this is awesome. So went back, told the wife, I was like, Hey, um, I think there’s something wrong with our heater or furnace. I’m going to go downstairs. I’m just letting you know, in case it blows up or something, you know, you know, you know that I’m actually down there, uh, go down there. Oh, it’s cold down there.

It’s not firing. It’s not on. Um, spend a little bit of time trying to figure out what could have happened. Oh, look, the breaker had been flipped, so started doing math in my head going, Oh, that thing she heard at one in Nam that woke her up was probably something with the furnace, blew the circuit, you know, blew the fuse.

Um, flipped it off. Okay. Flip it back on, start messing with it. [00:03:00] The igniter, you know, nothing. It’s not firing back up and like, awesome. It’s four in the morning. Um, I’m going to have to call easing company. Yeah, it’s freezing outside. It’s now, you know, deep down, it keeps dipping in our house. It’s down to like 62 and we have no heat and this is the only way to heat the house.

So make a call, call the company, you know, all that fun stuff. Um, eventually the guy comes out and later on, uh, And I start talking to him, he’s kind of grumpy. He’s going through the stuff, tries to figure out what it is. Um, and then just kind of fast forward to talking with him later, before he left. And he was, you know, like I said, a little grumpy starts kind of talking about how he’d spent his Christmas, you know, trying to see his family and then basically getting calls.

And he said, I think it was like, By seven or 8:00 AM. He had six or seven calls lined up for that day. So for him it was like, you know, Mary F and Christmas this stuff. [00:04:00] Yeah. And he’s, as he’s telling me this story, I’m looking at my furnace broken, you know, this is like four days after Christmas. I know that just him coming out there, it’s going to cost me a hundred or two or $300.

Yeah. Because it’s off hours. So it’s already more, I know that whatever part is going to be fixed on that is going to cost me money. You’re paying premium well, a premium for the time to come out their premium for the, you know, not premium for the parts, but I’m like, I did not plan to drop a whole bunch of money today, you know?

And then I started thinking about him and his Christmas and I’m like, well, one, you have a job, so you should be happy. But too, do you think those people really woke, expected to wake up on Christmas day Christmas? You know, and maybe having, maybe having a couple of people over, maybe not because of, you know, COVID but you know, waking up with the kids and instead of being happy and trying to hang out with your kids or your family, you’re now freaking out because you have no heat.

[00:05:00] It’s below freezing. It’s the winter in Chicago, like. Do we need to move out of the house for the weekend. Do we need to get a hotel? What are we going to do with the animals? Um, how much is this going to cost me? Like, I don’t think any of those people really wanted to call him. And I understand you had a bad day, but here he is talking to someone who also is probably perhaps maybe buying a brand new furnace, which is going to cost.

Gosh, knows how much money. Um, I know I just dropped money into them, fixing things and having them do a checkup literally two months earlier. Like literally, I paid them to come out just to make sure that we didn’t have this happen and look what had happened. And so as he left, I was like, I’m not going to curse on this episode, but I was like, Christmas, what a jerk?

Like, I’m sorry, you had a bad Christmas, but there was seven families or 10 families or whatever that had an even worse Christmas, because they just had spent, who knows how much money they didn’t plan for. Yeah. [00:06:00] Um, and so I wrote this story down, you know, you thinking, I, I almost next time I call, I go, please don’t send that guy out because he’s a downer.

No, it’s like, that’s my experience with that company now. It’s interesting. They sent this guy out who basically, I understand how to bad day, but I’m like, so did all these other people because of your job?

Matt Siltala: [00:06:24] Yeah. Well, I mean, it is, it’s interesting because when you’re sharing this, it makes me think of an example of, uh, a friend of mine that owns a locksmith company in New York city, uh, the upper East side area.

And, uh, anyway, it’s, it’s interesting talking to him about how he’s grown his business. And one of the things that, that he’s told me that’s helped him grow his business is. Simply having empathy. He said, there’s so many, just again, don’t want to use any foul language here, [00:07:00] but just jerks of, of people in that industry over there.

And as you can imagine, you know, locksmiths get called at all kinds of different hours and, you know, for emergency lockouts and, and drunk lockouts or whatever you want to call it. But, um, one of the things that he shared with me. That’s helped him grow his businesses. Like just his attitude with every single one of them, whether he’s, you know, whether it’s a call at 10 o’clock in the morning or whether it’s a call it at 3:00 AM the 3m lockout or whatever, like he always tries to have the best attitude and he tries to, you know, understand what these people are going through.

They probably didn’t want to have to. Have to do it themselves. And so, Oh yeah. And, um, I kind of forget, you know, we had, uh, um, thanks for the reminder. We had a

Dave Rohrer: [00:07:53] no, as you started talking about Jay, I was like, what episode was that?

Matt Siltala: [00:07:57] So we had him on and so we’ll drop a link in [00:08:00] the, uh, episode where you can go and listen to him, but he talks a lot about this.

And basically this is how he grew his business. And so like so many experiences that I’ve had with him. Is, you know, where he’s, he’s had someone that’s been drunk, that’s been locked out or people that for whatever reason, they didn’t have access to their credit card. And, you know, he’s told me he’s like, he just had some empathy for him and, and, uh, and just did it for them for free.

And these people have, he said, every single one of them have come back and have used him for something. And they’ve wrote good Yelp reviews. And, and just simply because he is the nice person that he is, he’s known for being someone that can be trusted. And so I think that this has, you know, it’s like, compare that to what you said, Dave, about how next time you call that company, you’re going to tell them not to send that guy out.

And so, I mean, that’s again, money off of money, money out of his pocket, so to speak. And so anyway, [00:09:00] Those are just some thoughts that I had about it with it. Um,

Dave Rohrer: [00:09:05] I’ll go ahead. I think just anyone that is a frontline, you know, sales or customer service, or, you know, account manager, I’m just trying to think of all the different, um, I, I think everyone, when you’re a teenager at some point.

Should have to work at least six months in a fast food service place. Like I just think that you should have to work at least six months to a year in fast food. Service because you will get . Yeah. Did it for years at different places. I would. I worked at McDonald’s. I worked at great America, the six flags, great America here.

I worked at, um, a sub shop in college. I worked at a fast food place that served drunk people until four in the morning in college. Um, that was always entertaining. Cause at least, at least they were just drunk or intoxicated in some manner. Um, [00:10:00] just being stupid, but I mean, I’ve had so many people yell at me about stuff that’s clearly out of my control.

Like why is it taking so long? I’m like, well, there’s 20 cars in front of you. You all decided to come get food at the same time, we only have so many fryers. I can only make so much food, but you only have so many people. You know, we only have, we can only cook so many burgers. We can only make so many subs, you know, whatever it is, you know, I can only scoop ice cream so fast, my eight, whatever it is.

Yeah. Whatever it is, we call it, print out, you know, the, the printer, you know, you work at the FedEx or ups store. Well, you just put the order in an hour ago. I’m sorry. You waited till the last minute there was three people in front of you. There was two orders ahead of you. Um, you’re just going to have to wait.


Matt Siltala: [00:10:48] here’s the one for you? So my daughter used to work at a Harkins theater and, uh, she used to tell me, and it was always the, uh, it was always the old men that, uh, would bug her, [00:11:00] but, uh, the PE people would always come up to our name and be like, that movie was horrible. That wasn’t worth the ticket price.

And she’s looking at them like, I’m sorry, do you want me to call up Steven Spielberg and tell him, or whoever, you know, obviously she didn’t say any of that stuff, but like just the stupid things that she would have to deal with all the time. And like, there was, I mean, luckily she’s kind of knows how to let that stuff, you know, brush the dirt off your shoulder, so to speak.

But, so there was a lot of her employees and coworkers or a lot of the fellow coworkers that. Well, just be berated on stuff like that, that was completely out of their control. And like they would, they would literally go hide themselves in closets and cry because things were so bad and, uh, you know, that’s horrible.

That’s not how we need to act it. It also made me think of the other, or I don’t know if he had something to say, but it made me think of the other side of it too. Um, Dave, with, uh, with like, [00:12:00] you know, different experiences that I’ve had with. You know, at restaurants and just seeing how the business like this, these kinds of things that I see, make me want to shop and go back and eat at these places more often.

Like, you know, I’ll, I’ll when I’m at a place and the person forgot their wallet, or they don’t have their credit card or something happened, it keeps getting declined. And the business owners, like, you know what? I got you on this one, you’re here usually, or I see, or at least I want you to come back.

That’s the kind of stuff that would make me want to come back. And that’s the kind of stuff that makes me want to write a good review. And that’s kind of stuff that I don’t think people realize sometimes, you know, maybe some business owners don’t realize, they think, Oh, I’m losing $20 on this mill. But think about like the $20 that they’re purchasing in, in good press or good PR or whatever the person ends up doing, because they’re probably gonna talk about it on social.

They’re probably going to talk about something about paying it forward, something like that. And in a lot of cases, it’s hard to put a dollar value on that. So. That’s kinda my, [00:13:00] my thoughts on that

Dave Rohrer: [00:13:01] when we started empathy and just those, those stories that we both just told, I also think that there’s also the flip side, where to be a good manager owner leader.

You also have to know when to step in to protect your employee from, you know, jerk face, make meany head. Oh yeah. That is going after your employee, you know you, yes. I wish more. People had empathy towards other people. If they are having a bad day. I understand. It’s not easy. Especially if you’re, like I said, a frontline worker or, you

Matt Siltala: [00:13:33] know, in agency, world, it’s okay to fire a client.

Dave Rohrer: [00:13:37] Yeah. Yeah. The same thing. I’ve known people that have had clients that just would not yell. It would not stop yelling at, you know, the account manager or anyone like whoever got on the call, they’d just yell at him. And when the owner of a company and agency. Is on the call and he’s being yelled at. And he was like, finally just goes, you know what?

You treat my people like this horrible. You treat me [00:14:00] like this fine, but you treat my people like this. No, no you’re fired. We’re done. And then they get mad. They’re like, what do you mean? Like, no, you’re disrespectful. You’re mean to all my people.

Matt Siltala: [00:14:10] And, and how funny is it Dave? That like the $500 a month client is the one that’s always the meanest and you know, you’re always having a fight to get paid and.

The the $10,000 a month client, again, I’m just giving general numbers here, but the one that’s paying a lot more, it’s like, Oh, here here’s your invoice. Sorry. It was late or whatever it might be. So it’s like crazy the difference in stuff like that. But anyway, well, what are your thoughts like, uh, you know, or what would be your biggest recommendations from take or takeaways from this for business owners that are.

Wanting to do a better job with this or wanting to instill this with their employees or create a better culture.

Dave Rohrer: [00:14:50] I think the, if we go back to, um, when we had, when, uh, Oh, [00:15:00] it was done in Phoenix with you, why am I having a brain fart with a four from the pest control? Oh, yeah. Thomas. Yeah. Thomas. Sorry. I don’t know why I’m bringing Charlie Thomas.

Um, I think the problem is a lot of companies like, say I’m not smiling. I want you to set an example because I don’t want to say that they have a problem. Um, but you know, think about a company and you, you look at your Yelp reviews or you look at your Google reviews or Facebook reviews, or you look at the feedback through an online, you know, your NPS score or something.

And it’s like, You, you start to see a trend by then. It’s already a trend. Like if it’s just one person, you probably won’t notice it. But I think proactively look for ways to just do training around empathy around just better customer service, customer management. I think it’s, it’s not just the empathy. I think it’s overall like look at ways to invest in your people and stay on top of [00:16:00] it.

And listen to customer service calls. Do you have a customer service rep that just tells people they’re stupid? Like, what do you mean? You didn’t turn it on and off already? Didn’t you, did you read the damn instructions? You know, didn’t you go through the prompts? Why, why are we having this call? Maybe that’s the fifth person in a row that they’ve talked to and it’s been the same thing.

And they’re just annoyed that they have to do this yet again, but that one person maybe could be costing you so much business. Has maybe all of those reviews that you’re getting that have problems or really him or her, or maybe there’s a sales person that just is having a bad day and tells people off.

And you just lost, you know, a huge deal because they didn’t feel like dealing with this one person that day. And as an owner be willing to take, it’s hard to measure that. Well, keep on track

Matt Siltala: [00:16:47] of it. It is, and be willing to take that criticism to be willing to, to, you know, as we’re talking about this, I think back about.

That ABC bakery and Amy. And I don’t know if you remember, like the Gordon Ramsey [00:17:00] kitchen nightmares with that lady in Scottsdale over here. Absolutely. It’s crazy. Amy, do you ever, yeah, if you ever want a good laugh, just look it up to search for it. But you know, it was one of the few that I’ve actually seen Gordon Ramsey, just walk away from like, he’s like, I can’t help you.

You’re you’re crazy. And for him to walk away from someone that tells you something, but anyway, that’s all I’m that’s. That would be my takeaway. Just, uh, Um, you know, be able to take that, that information, that criticism, whatever it might be and, and, um, and use it to your benefit. So, all right. Well, any final thoughts?

Dave Rohrer: [00:17:38] Nope. I think just look for ways to keep training. Um, empathy is, you know, what kind of got us started, but I think there’s a lot more, um, whether you’re an agency, whether you’re in house, whether you’re, you know, you, you own a restaurant or, you know, a law firm and, you know, listen to your. Office manager, your customer service salespeople, you know yourself, listen to how you, you know, [00:18:00] if you have one of those phones, you know, go back and listen to your own sales calls, your own calls.

And like, as I really, you know, nice to that person or, you know, cause I know I had a bad day the other day, what did I sound like? And like, Oh wow. Like, you know, I’m sure all of us, I listened to us every time I do a podcast, I’m like, Oh my gosh, what am I saying? Um, But, you know, listen to yourself, listen to your employees and try to be proactive about making sure that they do have empathy.

You know, if you notice that someone’s having a bad day or, you know, maybe work with the managers or whatever your, your structure is to make sure that if someone is client facing or customer facing. Is there something you can do, you know, and I’ve done this in the past. When at great America, there was people that were just having a bad day.

They just couldn’t deal with people that day. And I’d be like, you know what? Normally you don’t get to do the, you normally you’re a cashier and normally you don’t cook, but today I’m just going to put you back here and you’re going to stock today, or you’re going to prep today, or you’re going to [00:19:00] do something else today because you’ve already raised your hand thankfully and said, you’re not doing well today.

But I can’t send you home cause I need staff or, you know, I can’t just cut you, um, yet, but try to be accommodating and try to look out for your own people as well. Perfect. Not just your clients and customers, but also the people that work for you. That’s it. All right.

Matt Siltala: [00:19:24] Well awesome. Thank you for sharing all that.

And so everybody, hopefully you guys got something from that as always. Um, please go to iTunes and give us a five-star rating and we can continue to bring these to you. So for Dave war, with Northside metrics I met. So it’s a little bit avalanche media and thanks for joining us. Bye. We’ll see you on the next one.

Bye guys. Thanks.