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3 Reasons To Adopt Empathy In Your Customer Service Model

We’ve all had those calls with customer service where we hang up and go, “Well, that person didn’t care about my problem…like, at all.”

And why would they? Customer service agents’ job is to answer questions on behalf of their employers. Along the way, they deal with rude people, frustrated people, upset people, and disappointed people…all day long. That’s already a big emotional drain. Add empathy to the list of job requirements, and the emotional demand might start to feel like a lot.

Still, there’s good reason to use empathy in your customer service model, in a way that actually benefits everyone involved—agents included.

In the end, adopting empathy in your customer service model should increase the efficacy of your agents and the satisfaction of your customers. Here’s how.

1. Empathy increases the efficacy of your agents.

When an agent answers a call, they get some immediate clues about how the customer is feeling. They might notice their customer sounds out-of-breath and nervous to be on the phone. They might have trouble keeping up as their customer rapidly explains every last detail.

Agents who understand that they can respond to those clues with personalized responses are better able to meet the customer in their time of need. Scripts are helpful starting places, but they don’t tell you what to say when a customer mentions that their dog just died or you hear a baby crying in the background.

MaestroQA, a leading quality assurance software company that emphasizes building customer loyalty, suggests incorporating empathy in your training, coaching, and data.

To do so, define what empathy means to your company and team. Then provide examples and practice showing empathy during customer interactions and coaching sessions. There are a few strategies you can use to help ground it into daily practice. Finally, track your data, making sure that your quality assurance scorecards are tracking empathy. Then, you can dispassionately assess the impact that empathy has on your team’s efficacy.

2. Empathy creates a stronger internal culture.

Often, empathy starts at the top of a company. Does your leadership have empathy—balanced with accountability—for what agents face on a daily basis? If so, you might have structures in place like flexible policies and empowerment for your agents.

If your company has extremely strict policies, your agents might not be able to work with a customer to come up with an unconventional solution. According to Impactly, empathetic leadership must seek to discern the needs, emotions, and opinions of employees as a solid first step toward extending that empathy outward to customers.

When agents aren’t allowed to make small exceptions to improve the customer experience, it’s frustrating for everyone. Empathetic bosses understand that agents are able to do their jobs best when they’re trusted to make good decisions.

For example, a customer might want to exchange a product outside of the return window. Can your team make a judgment call about how long the window has been closed, plus the situation the customer is describing? Can they offer an extended trial period to a customer who’s unsure about a software solution?

When a team culture emphasizes empathy, the entire company benefits. Team members can feel supported and understood by one another and by leadership, increasing their job satisfaction. Individuals can ask for help or admit mistakes without fearing retribution or shame. Empathy is a powerful tool for building a resilient internal culture.

3. Empathy enhances cross-platform connection.

Answering a chat feels very different than answering a call, but empathy can be practiced in both scenarios. Phrases like, “Got it.” and “Totally. Let’s take care of that.” can show, even in chat situations, that the agent understands the emotion that the customer is feeling. These off-the-cuff remarks, delivered with tact, allow agents to connect on a deeper level, no matter the medium.

Businesses continue to respond to ever-evolving expectations for multiple modes of speedy customer service. In doing so, they have the opportunity to translate their brand voice and personality through different types of communication: text, email, video, phone calls, and more.

An empathetic customer service model provides a basis for meeting customers where they’re at—including understanding the reasons they might choose to reach out via a certain channel. And that creates opportunities to make your business stand out from the rest.

Think about the difference between texting with a friend and messaging a chatbot. Your friend can respond to the nuances of what you tell them. Even with the most advanced AI, a chatbot has a limited number of allowed responses. Empathetic, asynchronous customer service is like texting a friend. By providing that kind of service, you can build personal loyalty with your customer base—benefiting everyone.

Empathy and the Bottom Line

Admittedly, it can be somewhat difficult to convince a boardroom that empathy makes good business sense. Metrics to bring into play at that point might include the cost of acquiring a new customer, employee turnover and recruitment costs, and staffing hours devoted to resolving customer service issues that required escalation to higher-paid managers.

Of course, a discussion of positive customer interactions can also be made extremely personal. Everyone intuitively knows that they are more likely to return to businesses that made them feel valued and appreciated even when purchases did not work out as expected. In an increasingly competitive worldwide market, your business simply can’t afford to not embrace empathy.

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