Empathy is one of the driving factors of good customer service; without it, it is impossible to imagine what a customer’s position is. Why are they upset about something? Why are they shouting at you over the phone? What is it that they really want? Why do they respond to your smile?
What is Empathy?
Some of you may be sitting there wondering what this video has to do with customer service and when I’m going to get to the point; others among you may be nodding your head. That’s fine; we’re all here to learn.
What this video does is explain ‘empathy’; we can deduce that empathy comes in a variety of different forms but on the whole is reflective of how well we understand each other’s emotional responses to situations.
Most of us are capable of imagining what another person is going through. We have a certain level of empathy; some of us have more than others, but mostly we’re all capable of it to some extent.
For example, if my best friend won first prize in a competition and was bubbling over with excitement I could well imagine what that might feel like. When you read a story about someone who is diagnosed with a terminal disease, you might feel sad for that person but it’s not until you imagine what it must be like to be that person that you’re acting on your empathy.
What role does Empathy play in Customer Service?
Empathy allows a good customer service agent to read between the lines. As customer service agents it’s important that we know how customers feel – but there’s a distinction to be made here between imagining what a customer wants and assuming to know what a customer wants.
Picture a little girl named ‘Sally’. Sally comes into an ice cream parlour with her mother for ice cream. It’s fairly simple to come to the conclusion that Sally is there for a treat and will now go through the process of choosing what flavour she wants for her one scoop of ice cream. There’s very little imagining to be done here.
Next, picture Mickey, a young man with a skateboard who’s come into a shoe store, presumably to buy new shoes. An bad sales consultant might just make a snap judgment and try and sell Mickey a pair of sneakers that might go with his current look. A better consultant would ask Mickey what he’s after – apparently Mickey has his first job interview at a tech company and he needs a pair of dress shoes to wear. That’s great stuff, that sales consultant now knows what Mickey wants and needs. What next? Sure we could just sell him a pair of shoes, but what about the next time Mickey needs shoes? Or if his friends need a pair? We want Mickey to tell his friends about our store and what a great experience he had when he bought his swanky new shoes.
This is where empathy comes into play.
Imagine what Mickey is going through. He’s off to his very first job interview at a tech company. Is he nervous? Is he confident? Does he think he has a good chance at landing the job? An empathetic sales consultant will pick up on Mickey’s mood and be able to talk with him about what he’s going through.
Empathy is the key to making good customer service a great customer experience, two vital sides of the coin and the differences between which I’ve explored here.