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How Empathy Can Improve Customer Service Efforts

empathy improves customer service

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Customer service has always been central to the success of any business. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted how businesses offer customer support as well as customer service expectations held by consumers. Now, more than ever, each business needs to evaluate how they are engaging their customers and offering care and support. Here is where ensuring your reps and employees practice empathy in customer service becomes crucial.

What is the Role of Empathy in Customer Service?

The first thing we should learn about is the concept of empathy. It is the process of imagining or putting oneself into another’s shoes in an attempt to better understand the other and what they are going through. And so, empathy should be understood as one of the most important traits when interacting with customers. But what does empathy in customer service look like? And as a Chief Customer Officer, how can you train your team and yourself to be more empathetic?

What is Customer Empathy?

Customer empathy is the process of understanding your customers by digging deeper into their pain points, concerns, motivations, and more. This means taking a step forward instead of simply saying “I understand” and proceeding with stock responses.

Empathy in customer service, therefore, means taking the time to understand each customer individually. What are their concerns? What is their situation? How can your product help them specifically? And so on. By paying attention to these questions and each customer individually, your team can provide a more holistic and meaningful customer experience.

Why You Should be More Empathetic When Dealing with Customers

According to research conducted by PwC, about 32% of customers will end their relationship with a brand after having one bad experience. Customer service expectations have increased and customers no longer tolerate bad-to-moderate service. They expect businesses to go above and beyond and, specifically, to be considerate and empathetic.

Being more consciously empathetic in your customer interactions can prevent the loss of potentially valuable customers. If your business does not take steps to improve customer experience by creating products and services that are customer-focused, your customers will not hesitate to go to your competitors.

6 Signs Your Business is Lacking in Empathy

In order to determine whether your customer service team is lacking in empathy and needs to up its game, look closely at how your team is performing. Some key indicators include:

  1. Low customer satisfaction scores
  2. Negative customer feedback
  3. Multiple call transfers among agents
  4. Long wait times
  5. Bad customer reviews
  6. Low customer retention rates

9 Ways to Practice Empathy in Customer Service

Customer service and customer interactions happen in a variety of ways and across different platforms. Among these are:

  • In-person meetings
  • Phone and video conversations
  • Live chat
  • Email interactions
  • Social media platforms

Your customer service must be consistent across these platforms so that each customer leaves your business happier and more satisfied than when they arrived. How can you and your team be more empathetic in customer interactions? Here are some helpful tips:

1. Maintain Eye Contact

This one goes without saying — Always maintain eye contact. It is often considered rude if you are paying attention to anything other than the person you are interacting with. This becomes even more important when you are engaging with customers on video calls. It is easy to get distracted and focus on the slide share or other materials, but take time to look at your customer and listen to them. Make them feel seen and heard.

2. Adopt Active Listening

Don’t just assume that you know what the customer is going through and that it is a common issue. Even if the issue is one of the most common complaints you receive, try to treat it with a new perspective. Your customer may have tried different methods to resolve the issue. This could provide you with more information and insight.

Once they have described their issue, repeat it back to them so they know you were paying attention to every detail. Listen actively so you can provide helpful advice that they haven’t tried before.

3. Have a Positive Attitude

No matter what the situation, try to adopt a positive attitude throughout the interaction. Chances are your customer is really upset about the issue they are facing and their frustration may leak into their interaction with you. Don’t let that color the way you respond to them. Take a moment to understand what they may be going through and focus on solving the problem for them.

4. Be Patient and Respectful

Similar to the above tip, strive to be patient, kind, and respectful in your interaction. Give them time to speak (or vent, if they are really upset), avoid getting frustrated yourself, and focus on the end-goal which is resolving their concern so they can continue to enjoy your product or service.

5. Avoid Biases

As with any interaction, avoid making assumptions and biases based on your own perceptions. This means respecting the person for who they are and what they are trying to achieve. Don’t assume they don’t know anything or that they know everything. Always ask for clarification instead of making an assumption.

6. Be Careful When Cultural and Language Barriers are Involved

This is another area of concern where empathy in customer service is essential. When cultural and language barriers are present, there is room for confusion and misunderstanding. Take time to understand your customer. If you are struggling, ask to put them on hold, and find a supervisor or rep who can help. Make sure to get back to your customer soon, don’t keep them hanging on hold for long. Also, keep international phone etiquette in mind when calling customers in different regions and parts of the world.

7. Ask Follow Up Questions

This is a good way to show your customer that you are interested and invested in this conversation. Ask follow-up questions that are relevant and can help narrow down the issue at hand. This can also help you offer more personalized solutions.

8. Match Your Customer’s Tone

Whether it is through email or phone conversations, try to match the tone and enthusiasm of your customer. Don’t be too formal if your customer appears informal and casual, and vice versa. Personalize your interaction with each customer to connect with them in a better way.

9. Build a Bond, Be Flexible

Look for common interests. For example, the online pet company Chewy’s customer service agents always ask customers about their pets and share stories about their own pets. This is a good way to create a bond with their customers and talk about something both parties love: their dogs or cats!

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