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The Power of Empathy in Optimising Customer Service


The Power of Empathy: Optimising Your Customer Service in the Post-Pandemic World

Research from the University of Southern California has uncovered that ‘likeability’ is the best predictive measure of increased sales, with empathy playing a key part in increasing a brand’s likeability.

What do we mean by ‘Empathy’ in customer service?

As evidenced above, being empathetic is a vital skill when working in customer service.

Both in your personal life and business, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Having the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes and to understand where they are coming from, even if you have not been in their situation before.

When you are empathetic towards customers, you help them feel better about themselves by assuring them that you understand their problem and you are keen to solve it for them. This directly strengthens your relationship with that customer, by making yourself more personable and increasing trust between them and your brand.

So how can we demonstrate empathy for our customers?

Put yourself in their shoes.  Without knowing the full details of an individual’s problem/needs, how can we make a conclusion? Imagine you are that customer going through this problem right now and try to understand it from their perspective. This will allow you to connect with their perspective and therefore offer the most beneficial solution for them.

Show care and attention. When someone articulates a problem/need, they are seeking your support, so demonstrate you care by being attentive. Use empathetic language that directly acknowledges their needs and seeks to resolve their problem, such as “I’m sorry this has happened, let me try resolve this for you.”, “What is your ideal outcome?” and “Thank you for bringing this to my attention…”.

Acknowledge the customers’ feelings. One of the pain points when communication with customers fails is when the advisor doesn’t acknowledge the customers’ feelings. If someone says, “I feel so frustrated with X.”, before moving on make sure to acknowledge this feeling by saying “I’m sorry to hear that.” or “I understand your frustration.”.

Ask questions. Questions open a conversation. When someone gets the courage to share, especially a problem, asking questions encourages them to share more. Think about what the person said and ask meaningful questions that directly relate to it, whilst leading them to a positive resolution.

Don’t judge before understanding the full situation. Judgment shuts down the conversation. This is the same for prejudgment, which means forming a judgement on an issue (or person) before you have adequate information. The best way to resolve this is to always give the person the benefit of the doubt and ask for more information if you need it.

Why is this so important to Customer Service?

In customer service, empathy is the key to have meaningful interactions with your customers, and to understand and respond to their needs/feelings.

Being empathetic towards someone doesn’t mean that you always have to agree with them - it also means being able to say 'no', or taking actions they may dislike, whilst still demonstrating as much compassion and understanding as possible.

The on-going pandemic has hugely impacted organisations’ ability to show one-to-one empathy with much of the buying cycle being handled digitally or with very little human interaction. As lockdown has eased in recent months, customers have started to demand increasing levels of understanding and engagement; and expect a heightened customer-centric relationship. There is still a high degree of anxiety and uncertainty amongst customers, which requires organisations to prioritise the need to empathise in every interaction.

Therefore, quality customer service has never been more important. Many customers will require additional emotional support as they adjust to a ‘new normal’. Organisations who:

Listen to their customers;

Act on behalf and in the interest of their Customers, AND;

Learn on the back of customer needs/demands;

will build longer lasting, more valuable customer relationships for the future.

The bottom line is this: being empathetic towards and understanding your customers makes good business sense. Consumers know that they still have plenty of choice and it’s easier than ever to vote with their feet.

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