Empathy as an everyday habit…
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is the act of putting yourself in others’ shoes and seeing a problem from their point of view. It is the foundation of support… “Treat others the way you would like to be treated”.
In customer service, empathy is the ability to have a human interaction with a customer.
Being empathetic towards someone doesn’t mean that you agree with them. It just means that you understand their truth. It’s an important character trait for support agents to have, because they have to talk to many different customers every day. They are to solve their problems, all the while making sure that they are representing the company in the best way possible.
You may wonder why it is so important to spend time and effort empathizing with every single customer, when you can use that time to efficiently solve multiple customer issues.
There are many benefits to expressing empathy; but the bottom line is … ‘to make customers happy’. A happy/satisfied customer turns into a permanent customer.
Empathy is a really important key to sounding more human and less like a machine. It never is just about answering calls, it’s about making a difference every day.
How to cultivate empathy?
Not everybody is lucky enough to be born, possessing endless empathy. But the good news is, empathy, like any other skill, can be learnt. Here are some tips that can help you learn to be more empathetic in your day.
– Understand your biases.
Every time you assume something about someone when there is no data to support it, contemplate and identify if it was due to bias.
– Open your perspective.
Meeting different people will also help cultivate empathy. Meeting new people opens your world a little more.
– Be more punctilious during your day.
A good way to do this, is to focus on the positive. Observe yourself closely for a week. Make a note of the times you feel a positive or a negative emotion and write down the events that triggers it (give attention to detail). This will give you a clear understanding of which activities to avoid and which to pursue, in order for you to remain positive throughout the day.
– Understand the background.
To penetrate customer barriers, you must discover who they are and what your product or service means to them. In the context of their academic background, age, company, organizational structure, etc., you can really bridge the gap and cultivate empathy.
Here are some points to keep in mind, to successfully express empathy on a call:
Let your customers talk and actively listen to what they are saying.
- Do not jump to conclusions.
- Do not offer a solution before they can finish telling you about the problem.
Let them finish talking and try to respond with more or less the same words they used. Sometimes customers want to vent and once they feel ‘heard’ – half their problem will be solved.
Give them the benefit of doubt
Maybe they are having a bad day… maybe their job depends on this issue… maybe they have a personal problem. You might not be able to pinpoint exactly what it is, that is bothering them but give them the benefit of the doubt. Always work assuming that this interaction will improve their day. Actively practice giving second chances. Understand their priorities.
Be always respectful
Always greet the customer by name. It’s easy to forget manners when the conversation is taking a bad turn, and has been going on for a while. Even when you are standing up for yourself, remember to not put them down. Pay extra attention in these situations, and try to make yourself as clear as possible, without sounding harsh.
Try and see the situation through their eyes
Share your customers perspectives. Try to distinguish what they’re struggling with and why. Don’t be afraid to take their side when your Company is at fault, and they are right. Go ahead and say “You are right. We’ve made a mistake.” Customers will respect you and your Company more for it. They will see that you truly value your customers’ opinions.
Smiling while you are on a call makes a huge difference. It comes through the phone and they will feel it in your voice. Keep that in mind the next time you answer a call.
Show that you care
Clients hate being treated like they have been grasped – when they haven’t had a chance to fully explain their problem. Expressing curiosity about what the customer did, is doing and how they came to face the particular problem that they are experiencing, will go a long way. Once they go from being on the offensive to revealing helpful information, they become much easier to talk to.
Remember to avoid sympathy when you are expressing empathy. Instead of saying “That must be frustrating”, try saying “I understand how frustrating that is.” Being more personal also helps. Instead of saying “The team will resolve this issue soon”, try saying “I am working with the team to solve this problem for you as soon as possible”. These tiny changes in the way you express empathy will go a long way in making the customer feel valued.