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Customer Service Empathy: Here’s How to Amp it Up

Amping up your customer service empathy will elevate your organization’s customer service from “good” to “great.”

Many of you have probably heard of the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins, who researched the pivotal characteristics between “good” and “great” organizations. In other words, Collins theorized why some organizations are “great,” while others are merely “good” – if not mediocre (or worse).

Of course, an organization that is “great” is capable of regressing to “good.” Indeed, Collins’ subsequent book, How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In, unapologetically explains why some “great” organizations featured in his earlier book fell to “good.”

And Collins’ books sparked a thought: What factors differentiate “great” customer service from “good” customer service? Although several aspects are likely involved, one particular element appears to assume a crucial role.

Empathy, specifically, customer service empathy.

But what exactly is “empathy”? The Oxford Dictionary articulates the best definition of empathy: “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Accordingly, customer service empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of the customer.”

Great, you’re thinking, but how do we do that? That is, how can our business or organization “amp up” our customer service empathy?

Here are three simple strategies that will enhance your organization’s customer service empathy and, therefore, transform your customer service from “good” to “great.”

Focus on understanding – not just hearing – the customer. In customer service, it’s tempting to become “scripted,” which means that we tend to treat the customer in a “generic” – as opposed to a “genuine” – manner; that is, when communicating with a customer, we may superficially “go through the motions” rather than genuinely understand the customer. Genuinely understanding the customer means that we’re able to fully comprehend:

  • the customer’s particular issue; and
  • the customer’s feelings.

Needless to say, genuinely understanding the customer requires us to focus exclusively on the customer and nothing else: in other words, no multitasking!

Reflect the customer’s feelings. Each customer with whom we communicate is experiencing feelings, whether positive, negative, or ambivalent. A core component of empathy is the ability not only to identify the customer’s feelings, but also to reflect those feelings back to the customer. For example, “I know it’s frustrating that we didn’t get your order to you on time” or “You have every right to be angry about our billing error.”

You’ll find that reflecting the customer’s feelings will typically deescalate an angry or upset customer, resulting in lower stress levels for you and your customer.

Paraphrase the Customer’s Issue. Paraphrasing the customer’s issue has two important benefits: first, it conveys that you are listening, and, second, it ensures that there are no misunderstandings. For example, “So even though our website advertised the product for $14.99, you received an invoice for $19.99. Is that correct?” or “Yes, we can give you a call before arriving at your home.  You want us to call you at (712) 555-5555 at least 30 minutes before, right?”

This week, “amp up” your organization’s empathy factor by implementing these practical strategies. By doing so, your business will transform its customer service from “good” to “great” while simultaneously differentiating itself from competitors.

As always, have a “customerific” week!

Mark