Humans innately want to feel understood and heard, especially with the anxiety and chaos that seem to be constantly permeating the atmosphere as of late.
Empathy, of course, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, or to try one’s best to understand his or her fellow human’s anxieties, needs, and desires.
With empathy being such an important part of human connectivity, it makes sense that the need for it in a customer-service relationship would be absolutely integral. The difficult aspect of this is that empathy isn’t an easy skill to teach, and it’s critical for you and your team to really understand what empathy is and how exactly it plays into customer service operations.
In customer service, empathy is the ability to have meaningful interactions with customers in order to connect with their feelings (even if you ultimately can’t resolve their problem). It’s about showing as much compassion as possible. Offering genuine empathy to customers is what will set you apart from competitors. It leads to great customer experiences and ultimately drives loyalty, positive reviews, and repeat sales.
In COVID times, empathy has become even more important in terms of building a rapport with customers. With so much uncertainty, it has become more difficult for people to make decisions. Anyone who is experiencing any kind of anxiety, especially when it comes to big business decisions, will tend to put off making a decision to act for as long as possible, until “things go back to normal” or “settle down”; even critical decisions are being deferred more often.
Sick people are putting off going to the hospital because they don’t want to be a bother if they think their situation isn’t critical. People are delaying buying new wardrobes until they’re back at the office and putting off home renovations until more stores open and builders are allowed in their homes.
In summary, people are stressed. And as we all know, stressed people are not always the most logical, making them more difficult to serve and appease. In a business setting, you can use empathic engagement to understand this, establish rapport, and to help customers make optimal decisions in a timely manner.
Customers ARE prepared to pay more for a pleasant experience than just an average one. This is evident in the popularity of subscription boxes for luxury items and pets – people are paying a premium for non-necessity items that make them feel good. And the delight they receive from these services creates a loyalty that leads to increased business and referrals.
Additionally, people have become more and more invested in transparency and authenticity in their purchasing decisions, which explains the recent calls for more sustainable and ethical practices all the way down the supply chain.
Customers have started to expect and demand increasing levels of understanding and engagement. They believe that organisations have now had enough time to address the technical challenges brought upon in the past year, and want a swift return to a more customer-centric relationship. Many customers are gradually returning to a calmer mindset, but their expectations are higher and their loyalty to any organisation are likely much more fickle.
People do not feel empathy from a business but rather, they feel it from the individual people on the front line. One bad experience with an agent can cause them to abandon you for a competitor, or write a bad review that leads to even more lost business.
So what policies or practices can you put into place now that leads to increased empathy across your workplace?
We recommend that you start to implement empathy-building exercises in the day-to-day work of your team. Think about practices like team reviews of customer conversations and user testing to put your team in the shoes of your customers.
Teach your staff to distribute empathetic phrases throughout your text conversations and to pay attention to tone when speaking. Empathic and reflective questions should always be utilised in customer-service conversations that help reflect on what the issue may be in order to resolve it faster.
Remember, empathy isn’t just for your customers. Internal empathy within your organisation will promote a healthier company culture and a happier staff. The best way to get your service agents to be more empathetic to customers is to show them empathy in return.
Host a group session to discuss some typical customer complaints, and get the team to share stories so they can better relate to each other and feel less isolated. Try opening meetings up with everyone sharing one good and one bad thing that happened within the past week (professionally and personally if you wish), to encourage camaraderie and communication.
At the end of the day, being empathetic towards your customers makes good business sense – it can protect revenues, avoid losses, and enhance your reputation. On top of that, empathy is a competitive necessity. Consumers are smart, and they know that they have plenty of choice.
Be the organisation known for kindness and emotional intelligence. Valuing people and treating them with respect and kindness costs your company nothing.
We can help you implement tools that eliminate all of the manual processes that your service team are still using. Ask us how!