For professional customer support representatives, there is no better tool for gaining customer loyalty than empathy. About 61% of customers switch to other companies because a company provides better customer experience than its competitors.
Empathy means a person can truly identify with the feelings of other people and understand them not just intellectually, but on an emotional level. How can this be applied in customer service?
In this article, we'll cover:
Why Does Empathy Matter?
According to Harvard Business Review’s rating, 10 most empathetic companies earn 50% more than those with lower positions. But why?
Empathy is an ability to understand someone’s emotions, even if a person is not sharing them at the moment. In other words, being empathetic means seeing the picture from someone else’s point of view. A support agent’s empathy is the key to a good customer service because it increases customer satisfaction and loyalty. Even if an agent cannot resolve the issue, they can give customers a feeling they are heard and understood, reduce their frustration, and leave them with a positive experience.
How does it reflect on a business? According to the survey, 70% of customers base their buying decisions on how they feel they are being treated. A single bad experience with a support service may make a customer switch to competitors. On the contrary, a positive experience can turn a new customer into a loyal one. That leads to gaining more profit — according to the Accenture Strategy research, 66% of customers spend more with the brands they love.
Empathy Training in Contact Centers
We are used to thinking of empathy as a trait that someone should be born with. But research shows it is also a skill that can be trained. Empathy training is usually a group activity that can be performed during a training process for specialists in contact centers. Here are some exercises that are designed to enhance empathetic skills.
This practice means showing a person you talk to that you are paying attention. It can be effectively practiced in pairs when one person plays a customer with a question or complaint, and another — an agent. The agent should use tools of active listening: summarizing what a customer said in their own words, asking leading questions, affirming the customer’s point of view, etc.
One of the easiest ways to boost empathy is through sharing personal stories and listening to others. Customer support agents can handle a group session telling about difficult or remarkable customers, frustrating situations, bad and good experiences. A team may also start a weekly meeting with a discussion of their concerns and memorable situations from last week
Defending Bizarre Requests
Even if a customer’s request seems extravagant or unsolvable to a customer support agent, it still should be treated carefully and professionally. Here’s how to train for it: an agent gets an example of a completely unreasonable request and needs to come up with a situation when it would completely make sense, and also offer ways to solve it.
SupportYourApp experience shows that empathy training can be easily implemented in a corporate training program and can yield real results. During practical sessions, agents learn to listen to their customers attentively, understand them, their feelings and values better. It leads to improving customers’ experience and gaining their loyalty.
A conversation over the phone or via email majorly limits options for non-verbal communication. There are a number of ways for a support specialist to express understanding and build trust with the customer. They are called empathy statements and should include several main points.
While talking to a support specialist, a customer may not be comfortable hearing a standard “we”. By using the “I” pronoun, the specialist will show their personal interest and understanding of the customer’s situation. Making a conversation more personal may help break the ice even with the most difficult customers.
Replacing passive voice with active (e.g., “I will inform you as soon as I get more information” instead of “You will be informed”) implies more action. A customer will more likely get the impression that a company is actually resolving their issue.
Words of Urgency
Phrases like “I am going to deal with this immediately” or “I’m sending a request right now” will show a customer their issue or question matters, and it will be resolved as quickly as possible.
When a conversation ends, customers should be left with an impression they were heard and their experience and emotions mattered. Here are some examples of such closing phrases:
- “Feel free to reach out if you need anything else”
- “I will contact you as soon as I have an update”
- “Please let me know if you have any questions”
The most important rule of the empathetic language is individuality. The standard list of empathetic phrases, that is usually present in customer support scripts, may provoke customer’s dissatisfaction and create an impression a consultant is not actually paying attention. At SupportYourApp, we always recommend consultants to use not just scripted phrases, but their own words and build up a conversation around the customer’s words. The result is a personalized approach to each customer.
At SupportYourApp, empathy training starts during the onboarding process. During the consultants’ first days in the company, we emphasize the importance of empathy, as it shows customers their emotions and opinions matter and helps them make sure a company actually works on resolving their issues. SupportYourApp pays a lot of attention to soft skill training. Our consultants have a chance not just to learn a lot of new information, but to apply it practically. We practice both group and individual training sessions, when consultants can practice their empathy skills during role playing and then analyze the results.
We believe implementing empathy training in support teams leads to improved customer service quality. As a result, we get a team of professional customer support and service consultants who refer to customers’ feelings and concerns as to their own.
Anastasiia is a professional writer with a diverse background. She used to write about IT, logistics, business, but now her main interest is customer support and communication. Anastasiia’s biggest passion is reading — she prefers books over anything. She believes that the greatest thing a keen reader can do is to write themselves.Posted on