Empathy is often lauded as a critical key to successful customer service. But how does it work? What role does empathy play in helping create customers for life and not mere customers for now? And, what about the flip side: what’s the damage done by lack of empathy? After all, we’ve all heard stories and experienced firsthand the horror of dealing with a “service” representative who is anything, but nice.
A Korean study in the healthcare sector found that empathy improves patient satisfaction and compliance. Five hundred and fifty outpatients at a large university hospital participated in the study. The results of this study showed that the physician’s empathic communication skills significantly and substantially influenced patient satisfaction and patient compliance.
Another scientific experiment with 209 adults revealed that a simple empathy exercise designed to activate empathy boosted business creativity. The participants were asked to imagine how a consumer would feel using the product, whilst others were asked to imagine what the consumer would think when using the product.
In fact, being empathetic requires more than simply paying attention to what customers are saying or feeling; it’s about putting these feelings into context by making sense of them. It requires skill at recognizing and understanding another person’s emotions, especially when they contradict what you might be seeing or hearing. It’s not an easy thing to do, but for those willing and able to learn it can be a defining factor in creating customers for life and avoiding unhappy endings.
Let’s take a look at what industry experts have to say about empathy in customer service.
What is Empathy?
Empathy is the ability of the representative to understand the client’s point-of-view. This means that an empathetic representative can step into a client’s shoes, understand how they feel about the issue, and respond accordingly. In short, empathy is a way of thinking about others rather than oneself.
“When you put yourself in the customer’s shoes and begin your dialog from there, an immediate connection develops that stems beyond basic commerce and encourages loyalty” – this is what says Steve Maraboli, a behavioral scientist, author and public speaker about empathy in customer service.
Another great expression about empathy was provided by Shep Hyken, the customer seervice and experience expert: “Before you walk in the customer’s shoes, take off your own shoes”.
This means that sometimes we can’t the experience through customer’s eyes, because we know too much as company’s employees. It’s hard to separate ourselves from what we think the customer perceives versus what the customer actually experiences.
In the most basic sense, customers with empathy are customers who perceive that someone with a vested interest in their business is actively listening to them and responding to their needs. In short, having empathy is what separates “customer service” from just being on the receiving end of sales pitches or solve-my-problem requests.
Being empathetic is the first step toward creating customers for life. Customers who feel they’ve been heard and understood are more likely to be open to what you have to say than those who don’t. They’re also more forgiving of missteps and mistakes because they understand that people make errors – even ones employed by billion-dollar companies – and they expect you to take responsibility for them.
What are advantages of empathizing while assisting customers on a live chat?
Customers appreciate it when they are treated with empathy on a live chat. They are more likely to continue doing business with the organization. They feel important, so customer satisfaction increases.
Scott McKain, bestselling business author and award-winning keynote speaker once said: “If you want customers to know they matter to you, show it by being interested in what matters to them”.
Live chat technology empowers live chat agents with the right tools to understand what matters to customers when they start chatting with. Having this information at fingertips it is easy to become not just a customer service agent, but a partner who is concerned about the success of the person on another side.
Thus customers who perceive that someone has listened to them are more likely to buy from the company. Moreover, they are also more forgiving of errors or mistakes if they feel that you have listened and understood their issue.
How to practice empathy?
Empathy is about understanding how another person feels, not what they think or perceive. It’s an ability that can be cultivated through practice.
Here are some ways you can cultivate empathy:
- Be aware of missteps and mistakes – even those on the part of your company – so you can respond better to them
- Be aware of your own behavior to prevent doing things that might inhibit others. For instance, avoid using slang or industry jargon when speaking with customers so that they feel more at ease talking with you
- Remember what you have in common rather than just focusing on what makes you different
- Always remember to consider how your decisions and behaviors affect others – both customers and coworkers
- Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, so you can better understand how they’re feeling.
If these tips seem difficult, try writing down as many specific ways as you can think of that will help you remember them more easily. For example: “I could practice empathy by being aware of my own behavior, so I don’t do things that inhibit others”.
How to be empathetic on a live chat?
The next step is to take these tips and apply them when working with customers on chat. There are a few different ways you can show empathy while assisting customers on chat:
- Actively listen. This means that you are not only hearing what the customer is saying, but that you are truly paying attention to them. You can show this by making direct eye contact or nodding occasionally to let the customer know they have your full attention
- Be mindful of your tone. This means being aware of how you sound when speaking with customers so that you don’t come across as angry, frustrated, or bored
- Paraphrase. This means rephrasing what the customer is saying to show that you truly understand their situation and that your help is not just a knee-jerk reaction. For example, “I can see how this would make you angry” rather than “Are you mad?”
- Ask open-ended questions. This means not asking yes or no questions as this will make the customer feel like you aren’t really interested in what they have to say.
How to Express Empathy?
There are a few different ways you can express empathy when working with customers on live chat:
- Be caring and understanding. For example, there is nothing wrong with saying something like “I’m sorry this was such an inconvenience for you” to let them know that their experience has been affecting you too
- Acknowledge the customer’s feelings. Saying something like, “I can see how you would feel that way” is a good way to let them know that you understand how they’re feeling
- Use words that communicate understanding and reassurance. For example, “I completely understand why you would be upset by this” or “I’m glad we were able to fix the problem so you could get back to your day”
- Remember that empathy doesn’t mean giving in to the customer. You don’t have to agree with their point of view, solve every problem, or do whatever it takes for them to be satisfied. Empathy is about showing that you understand how they feel and being supportive.
Learning how to be more empathetic can help you successfully interact with your customers. You should also remember that empathy is a skill, so don’t be discouraged if it takes time for you to show empathy. It will come in time as long as you keep practicing!