Why Customer Empathy Is Important in Customer Service
Customer empathy is more than simply doing what your customers want. It’s the process of understanding your customer base, what they want and need from you and how you can best provide it. Empathy in customer experience has been rated one of the top concerns of consumers, with the need to feel valued by brands growing more and more in recent years. It’s utilized to create new products, improve the customer experience and more, all of which drive a business’ success, hence why empathy is important in customer service.
Empathy and customer service improvements go together like peas in a pod — if you don’t understand your customers you won’t know how to go about building customer empathy and therefore improve their journeys. In a customer service environment empathy is absolutely essential. By immersing yourself in the concept of empathy in customer service you allow your consumers to connect and share their lives with you, rather than simply existing in a vacuum outside of their needs. You’ll keep yourself relevant, keep new innovations tuned to customer specifications and most of all provide great products and services for the public to enjoy.
Practical Steps To Grow Customer Connections
If you’re reading this you’re probably wondering: How do you show empathy to a customer? There are several key ways in which you can go about this, all being based on listening, recording and understanding your customers’ concerns and requests. Of course, not every piece of feedback is going to be addressed and no matter how hard you might try it’s impossible to get every customers’ journey perfect, but using these tried and tested tips you can start to make a difference.
Information Exchange: Getting information from your customers, about what they like or dislike, need and don’t care for etc., can be tricky. Not only can customer feedback be chaotic and unstructured, but the sheer amount of useless information in feedback forms and similar can make patterns hard to see. By coordinating information exchange with your customers, your product team and customer service team can make strategies to improve their future plans. Perhaps you’re scheduling regular Q&A sessions with your consumers, maybe you’re setting aside sessions for customers to air grievances. Both are structured ways of getting information that is easy to record and categorize.
There’s also the matter of degrees of separation – no matter how well meaning your design or management team might be, they won’t know the needs of your customers better than your customer-facing staff who see them regularly. There’s an old saying, “in matters of boots defer to the bootmaker”, and this applies here too. By giving your front-facing workers a voice you can easily see possibilities that might never have occurred to management alone.
Leverage Your Staff: Information doesn’t just come in the form of formalised feedback. To carry on from the above, your front-facing staff will see little hints and see customer interactions in a way that management/design never could. By asking said personnel to note and record common complaints and compliments in order to pass them higher up the chain you get a better view of what’s going on down on the floor level, rather than simply dealing with an abstract idea of a customer. Customers like to talk, they like to air their wants and needs to people who will hear them. Anyone who directly interacts with customers will gain indirect insight which, when paired with formal feedback, can prove very useful indeed.
Of course, as with any experience that involves talking to people, some will be louder than others. Take care not to let the particularly loud voices drown out any quiet ones that are less open with information. Getting your staff to directly engage with customers, giving them empathy training for customer service and allowing them to put it into practise, will yield far more information than simply listening – some people will only talk when they feel they will be listened to, after all.
Mapping Customer Empathy: Customer empathy maps are a tool you can use to gather and process insights that your personnel might gather on your consumer base. It roughly splits customer actions into four sections, what a customer says, what they think, what they do and what they feel. By connecting these four ideas you can gain greater insight into what your customers experience when they make contact with your business. The Think and Feel sections are often extrapolations of the Say and Do, allowing you to see the effect that social protocol, politeness or uncertainty has on customer actions.
Maximizing Customer Empathy
One thing you’ve got to understand about people is that they’re flawed, their memories aren’t perfect and nobody will recall every last step of their customer journey with you. The parts of the customer experience that stick with a customer are the most intense (whether that be good or bad) moment and the end of the experience, as the most recent interaction with your business. This is called the Peak-End rule, and it’s vital that you keep that in mind when analysing customer feedback or dealing directly with a customer complaint. This is why voluntary feedback is often skewed towards the extremes of positive and negative – only the strongest of emotions will motivate customers to leave feedback unprompted.
When you’re connecting with customers through empathy you don’t need to look at the whole picture, merely the most intense moments that generate the strongest feelings in said customers, whether good or bad. By looking at these moments your staff can utilize empathy in ways to make the consumer feel listened to and valued, whether it’s certain empathy phrases for customer service staff that will show understanding, or empathy statements for irate customers slotted into emails that customer service send as replies. There’s even guides for how to show customers empathy on the phone, with tips ranging from tone to word choices – these are also known as empathy lines for customers.
Some might consider customer empathy a soft skill, one that’s more abstract than practical and might ignore it altogether when planning for the future of their business. However, time and time again it’s been shown that customers want to feel valued, listened to and understood by the brands they interact with and those who manage these feats will come away with a far better reputation than those who do not.
Customer empathy can be a difficult practice to do from afar, you need to get into the nitty-gritty of the situation and see what customers are thinking and feeling for yourself. Remember, it takes empathy to create loyalty, and understanding to promote goodwill. Consumers aren’t simply interested in taking what they want and leaving any more, they want a positive experience that you can provide, and in turn they will show a positive attitude towards you. One good deed leads to another, and one piece of empathy can help kick-start a revolution.
Simone Somekh is a New York-based writer and editor who specializes in marketing and communications for B2B SaaS companies. He teaches Communications at Touro College and he is the author of an award-winning novel published in four languages.