If you’ve ever experienced a frustrating call to customer service, you may already understand how empathy is a preferred customer service trait. Generally, when making a call to a business, a caller is looking for assistance and hopes someone will listen to them. An empathetic ear can make a difference in how the call is handled and whether the caller continues to do business with your company.
Empathy, however, is a skill that must be practiced and honed. Here are some tips on how and why empathy is good for your business.
A Natural Response
Merriam Webster defines empathy as the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
In a recent article by Chad Fowler, he describes how empathy is a natural response for him. He is a self-described introvert who prefers smaller crowds because he is continually “trying to read and understand the feelings and motivations of those around me.” Not everyone is naturally empathetic.
Practicing empathy means being willing to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Mr. Fowler’s article describes many reasons that empathy enhances relationships including:
- You will better understand the needs of your customers at work.
- You will find it easier to deal with the negativity of others if you can better understand their motivations and fears.
- You will learn how to motivate the people around you.
Customer service requires empathetic responses in order to make a caller feel comfortable, heard and understood. Empathy may also help the customer turn around to a positive viewpoint which only increases the likelihood of a stronger customer-business relationship.
Strengthen Your Skill
An empathetic ear means a listening ear. Sometimes, listening can be challenging when an irate or frustrating person needs to vent. Instead of avoiding the call or mentally disconnecting from the caller, use the opportunity to strengthen your empathetic muscle.
Here are a few other ideas for strengthening empathy:
- Actively listen – slow down and take in what the other person is saying. If you find yourself formulating a response while they’re still speaking, shake it off and listen closer.
- Find common ground – you may recall when you were in a similar situation with a customer and can remember how you felt. Channel that and respond with understanding.
- Be human – if you’ve made a mistake, admit and correct. If you need clarity, ask for it. Treat the caller as another person and not a number. This will go far in building trust.
- Follow up – if it is possible to follow up with the customer, even so far as getting them directly to the person they need, do it. Making sure their complaint is resolved will show that you really do care.
Answering tens or hundreds of calls per day, it is easy for some customer service representatives to become numb to the needs of others. A cheap answering service may take your calls but they may not be contributing to your business. Every phone call is an opportunity to build a relationship or gain customer loyalty. When assessing the right call center or answering service for your business, make sure that empathy is as an important part of their training and development as anything else.