A few months ago, Company X launched its version of a “smart” cordless vacuum cleaner with all the bells and whistles. As advertised, it did what its closest competitor (Company Y) could do but at a lower price. No… at a MUCH lower price – a difference that would make you think thrice about grabbing Company Y’s model that cost an arm and both legs.
Despite the all-out campaign, Company X’s vacuum cleaner couldn’t come close when it came to sales. Sales for Company Y’s latest vacuum models were grabbing 72% market share – which set Company X in a panic, it slashed prices even further.
Company X’s product lines were top-of-the-line. No problem. Their humidifiers and UV machines were selling well. But they just couldn’t beat Company Y at their vacuum cleaner game. What gives?
A market survey for home appliances revealed that Company X’s Achilles heel was its customer care channels. It was hard to get through to technical help, and even more difficult to re-order consumables whether online or off. If units needed to be replaced, customers were made to queue (online) which entailed a two to three-week wait. The chatbots weren’t much help and getting through to a live agent was next to impossible.
Company Y on the other hand knew this from the get-go. They also knew that lowering prices on their models wasn’t a good marketing move. What they did right, however, was to focus on customer experience. Omnichannels were in place. But they also made it a breeze for customers to get in touch with a talking, breathing, and kindly human being.
What this means for customer experience
This means that empathy and customer service should always be in the same sentence. Let’s put it this way, what kind of customer experience can a company provide if their customers are made to feel like a number among many?
61% of consumers have stopped buying from a company because a competing company was able to provide a better experience. Better experience means showing that a company truly cares and is trying its best to understand the problem. Empathy is felt when a person tries to see things from another person’s perspective while keeping calm.
Here’s how to improve customer service empathy
- Agents have to practice active listening – Customers (especially irate ones), are not always great at communicating exactly what they need. What sets “active listening” and simply “hearing” apart is that an active listener is engaged. Active listeners are reflective of what is being said. When a person actively listens, they use verbal and non-verbal feedback (whenever possible). They ask questions, and sometimes even paraphrase what they hard to confirm comprehension.
With digital platforms, interactions happen online. But even if in-person interaction isn’t possible (despite video calls), paying close attention to a customer’s requests comes a close second. The advantage of a digital “interaction” is that it can give the customer care agent time to digest what has been said, and in return, provide a thorough response.
- Acknowledge your customer’s concerns – When a customer comes calling with a product or service issue, the first thing that should get done is to acknowledge what they called for. More often, they are frustrated and angry. If their “feelings” don’t get acknowledged, they might take it as rejection upfront. Simply put, if a person conveys a verbal message, they expect the other person to respond. When there’s none, that’s when problems begin.
- Look past your biases – We all have them because it’s how humans store certain information. Unfortunately, our prejudices make us jump to conclusions quickly. It prevents us from doing our best before we can devote time to think about it. Take this example. Say, you work for an app developer catering to a certain generation (Shopify or something similar). Receiving a call from someone who “sounds” older automatically makes you assume that the caller isn’t as tech-savvy. Thus, it can instinctively make you defensive about your app having technical issues.
- Harness the power of positivity – Using positive language can make a world of a difference. Most (if not all) of those who get in touch with customer service are either irate or frustrated (or about to get crazy angry if their needs are not met). The golden rule in this case is to never act in the same manner. What should be done instead is to use positive language to respond. It can be utterly provoking to hear “I can’t help you”, “I’m sorry that isn’t possible.”, “Please calm down…”.
But “Thank you for bringing this to our attention”, “I totally appreciate your patience while waiting”, or “I’d like to help you with this.” Can turn things around. It may not solve the issue right away. But it can bring the anger notch several notches lower.
- Create and maintain the connection – The objective, of course, is to assist the caller/customer. While we follow scripts, this doesn’t mean we can’t go off-road especially when the chance to connect on a personal level presents itself. Tiny moments can change moods and make it easier to solve a problem. If it can’t solve anything at the moment, it can at least allow the customer to let off some steam. Keep your connection short and sincere. You don’t want the customer to think that this is being done on purpose to avoid the topic. Remember in the event, that nothing can be solved at the moment, you will at least leave them with a “pleasant” encounter.
Here are a few statements that you can use to convey empathy:
“I can imagine how you feel in this situation. But please don’t worry. We will sort this out.”
- “I get why you’re angry. I can help you out with this.”
- “What you said, sounds right. Let me see what I can do from my end to make it work.”
- “Did I get you right?”
- “If I understood you correctly, you would like…”
- “That would be absolutely annoying for me too!”
- “I can relate to this.”
- “I would have reacted the same way.”
- “This must have been confusing.”
- “This is what you may find helpful at the moment…”
- “May I offer you these options? Would you like to try…”
Empathy is a life skill that requires practice and training. Used correctly, empathy can add value to your customer experience and at the end of the day, make tangible differences in a business’s bottom line. Keep in mind that while we make a lot of decisions based on numbers, people are still led by feelings rather than reason or logic.
Empathy in your customer service can make your organization, business, and brand more human and genuine. In the end, you may not be able to solve all issues presented to you right away, but you can still make your customer feel better by establishing genuine human connection.
Our CXperts are passionate, patient, attentive, and knowledgeable customer care professionals with high empathy. We help brands develop a profound understanding of their customers’ needs.
Create that connection with your customers.
LET’S MAKE IT HAPPEN.
CXperts is a global provider of multichannel demand generation and customer engagement services. We have presence onshore, nearshore, and offshore in the USA, the Philippines, Colombia, Guatemala, and soon, Mexico and South Africa.
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