By Errol D. Allen
When speaking with managers in the customer service industry, this comment is often repeated – “I just wish I could get my people to show more empathy toward the customer.” Empathy – The big E word in customer service. One’s ability to sincerely interject this trait in customer service is critical. It’s important to properly express empathy when customers are upset or angry with your company’s products or services. Let’s look at a few ways to express empathy.
How Would I Feel? – Empathy is the art of putting one’s self in another’s shoes. One could contemplate, “If I were in this situation, how would I feel?” The action of mentally pausing to consider this question allows one to “feel” what the other person is actually experiencing. When customers are unhappy, upset, or disgruntled, they usually just want someone to listen to and acknowledge their particular situation. When customers feel “heard”, more often than not, their level of discontentment is reduced. It’s important to place one’s self in the customer’s shoes!
What Would I Expect? – When exercising your empathy skills, it should be natural to ask yourself, “What would I expect as a resolution if I was experiencing this situation?” If you know what you would expect, examine your options for the best way to resolve the customer’s situation. Should your options not include what you feel might be the best solution, make suggestions to upper management to get additional options included to insure customers are satisfied with your offerings for resolving the situation. When customers feel that you’ve provided the optimal solution for their situation, the chances of retaining them as customers are greatly enhanced.
Do I Trust You? – When assisting an unhappy, upset, or disgruntled customer, exercising empathy helps to build rapport and establish trust. Think about it – if someone is indifferent towards your situation, how can you trust that they will put forth their best efforts to provide the appropriate resolution? Ask yourself, “How can I get this person to know that I understand and truly empathize with their situation?” Once the person truly feels that you are sincere when exercising empathy, they are more than likely to accept the offered resolution.
Are You Listening? – In order to empathize with others, you must first be willing to listen to their story. Utilizing effective listening skills is paramount to the customer feeling that you are being empathetic. When face-to-face with customers, be sure to maintain eye contact as this indicates to the customer that you’re focused on them. Watch your body language and facial expressions as these are indicators of how you truly feel about the customer’s situation. It’s pretty easy for customers to determine if you’re really paying attention to what they’re saying when face-to-face. When on the phone with customers, your voice tone and inflections provide assurance that you are listening.
Allow the customer to get their whole story out before attempting to offer a solution. Interject with, “I understand your frustration.” or “I too would be unhappy if I was in this situation” when the customer pauses while voicing their displeasure. These interjections are indicators to the customer that you are in fact listening. Restate the customer’s issue to reassure them that you were in fact listening and understand their situation. Effective listening skills are the foundation for empathizing with customers. Remember, more listening and less talking leads to retaining an upset customer.
Employing the art of empathy can be the difference in your attempt to retain an angry customer. Empathize sincerely by asking yourself – “How would I feel?”, “What would I expect?”, “Do I trust you?”, and “Are you listening?”