Encourage Empathy from Your Agents and Experience Greater Loyalty from Your Customers

Focus on Customers

There’s a great Maya Angelou quote that can help explain the importance of outstanding customer service. She said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It’s a powerful statement and very true. We talk a lot about the customer experience and the customer journey and how brands can improve those for every customer, every time. When you get down to it, a customer interaction is one person interacting with another (or a few people). Like any interaction, it helps to have common ground. Whether that is shared interest in a product or industry, a similar background or simply common courtesy, that common ground goes a long way to ensure a positive interaction and experience for both parties involved.

Customer service agents may not always be able to find that shared interest or experience with a customer, simply due to the type or length of their interaction, but empathy moves them in the right direction. It can be challenging to help someone when you don’t understand what they are going through or where they are coming from. It’s possible to train agents to be more empathetic to customers. For example, role-play a few common situations agents face on a daily basis. Perhaps run the first one without direction, to see how the agent handles the situation. Then add some scripted dialogue to help the agent empathize. It could be something as simple as “I’d be upset too if that happened to me,” or “I’m sorry that happened” but it’s amazing what a simple and sincere statement can do to turn around a challenging situation.

“I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common—they all wanted validation. … They want to know, do you hear me? Do you see me? Does what I say mean anything to you?” – Oprah Winfrey

Listening is an essential part of being empathetic. Agents should actively listen to customers and pay attention to the details. It may not be the product or service the customer is upset about so much as the customer has had a tough day. Being polite, repeating information to be sure it’s understood and apologizing for the situation can score big points. Demonstrating that the agent is on the customer’s side and wants to help—jackpot!

“A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.” – Chinese proverb

LiveOps research has shown that happy agents=happy customers. People can “hear” a smile through the phone. The more you smile and sound like you enjoy helping people, the more that will come through to customers. Smile and see what a difference it can make.

“Always do more than is required of you.” – George S. Patton

Keeping calm, polite and helpful is essential in challenging situations—and those are the most difficult situations for people to stay calm, polite and helpful! A customer may get upset, complain, rant and rave—but the agent must stay calm. The agent’s task is to make sure the customer feels heard, understands what is going on, what comes next, what they need to do (if anything) and what the end result will be. Guide the customer on his or her path to resolution and you will end up with a happy, empowered and loyal customer.

Going the extra mile, going above and beyond—many brands claim to do so. Really successful brands do. Think Nordstrom, Apple, Zappos and any other brand that has delivered for you, personally. Don’t you want to do the same, be held in the same regard? Then give excellent customer service to every customer, every time; maximize each customer interaction; end interactions asking if the customer is happy, and if not, ask what else you can do to make them happy; and do it all with a smile on your face. Empathize with customers and you’ll find you have customers for life.

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