Why are emotional connections so important in customer service? Imagine you’re sitting with an acquaintance. You’ve experienced an issue and tell them how strongly you feel about the problem. You could be very angry, distressed, frustrated, etc. Imagine that after you’ve finished expressing your emotion, you look to them for a genuine reply. Instead, all they say are things along the lines of, “Well, maybe you should do this.” “Have you tried this?” “Maybe you’re the one doing something wrong.” “I don’t know what you should do.”
How would it make you feel?
Would everything you just expressed feel invalid or pointless?
What was missing from that interaction was validation. Another word is empathy.
What is empathy?
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the situation of another and take on their emotional response as if it were your own, thus giving it validity. This creates a sense of cohesion with that person and lets them know you understand and care. In business, it is imperative that we show customers that we care. They call in with issues and are hoping to be met by an understanding individual with the skill-set to alleviate those issues.
Recently AchieveGlobal, a sales training and development group, did a study that found that 1 in 3 consumers prefer being treated well over having their issues immediately resolved. This means you could do everything right on the call in an expedient manner, but if the customer feels as though they were not cared for, they will come away from the experience less than satisfied. Truly meaningful customer experiences spring from empathy.
Empathy vs compassion
When we use empathy as a springboard for action, we are showing compassion. There is a parable by the Dalai Lama that says, “A man is lying on the side of a road, crushed by a boulder. An empathetic person passes by. This person feels the man’s suffering so intimately that they are shaken and unable to find a way to help. A compassionate person passes by. This person understands the man’s pain and is driven to help, but is able to remain centered within themselves, allowing them to devise a plan to remove the boulder and get the man help.” While the empathetic person cared, it was the compassionate individual who could turn that empathy into fuel for action.
Use them together to connect with others
So, how do we do this? How do we show customers compassion and make their experiences meaningful? When dealing with a customer issue, show empathy first and build that trust between you and them. Give validity to their issue by expressing understanding and keenly listening to their emotional response and how they feel about the issue. Use that empathy as the fuel needed to show compassion for their issue and then act to find a resolution that reflects your care and concern for them. Lead first with empathy and close out with compassion.
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