Why Empathy is vital in Customer Service
Arguably one of the most important aspects of customer service and experience is the ability to empathize with customers.
What is empathy in customer service?
Empathy in the business world is about having the ability to have a human interaction with a customer and understanding their truth, while representing your company in the best way possible.
It doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with everything the customer’s saying and complying with every request- it just means being able to step into their shoes and understand their problems from their point of view.
If you want to nail customer experience, you have to dig deep, and understand how your customers feel. You need to understand how your experiences make your customer feel, and you have to ensure that it makes them feel good.
benefits of empathy in customer service
1. Helps understand customers better
In a study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital in 2012, it was revealed that empathy was an essential factor in creating stronger bonds between patients and physicians.
When going to a healthcare facility, patients are often distressed and disturbed- they want immediate answers, but is that what they need?
The study found that what they needed was empathy. They needed someone to listen to them, to support them, and to understand them. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of providing what we call, transactional support, to deliver immediate answers, but that level of support is superficial.
It was found that what they wanted was someone to acknowledge their distress. Physicians that were actively listening to patients had a more holistic understanding of what was going on. They were able to detect problems through clues like body language, voice, and tone, without having patients to spell anything out.
And as the physicians empathized with the patient, the patient started to reveal more clues through dialogue- they were more compelled to open up to a physician that was understanding. This led to higher satisfaction scores, a stronger impression on patients, and to a better experience overall.
In the same sense, the ability to empathize allows customer support agents to get a more holistic view of what’s bothering the customer as the customers feel more comfortable with opening up.
2. Leads to better conflict resolution
According to Psychology Today, “misunderstanding is the cause of 90% of all conflict.” The best way to avoid future misunderstanding is through open dialogues. Open dialogue allows customers to express issues they’re facing while live agents listen. It’s not about fighting or proving who’s right versus wrong, it’s about learning and creating a safe space to understand each other.
Through learning, an agent gets context. Through context, an agent can devise a solution that’s tailored to the customer’s needs thus leading resolution.
Context and learning also provides a more proactive service. Agents can predict future followup questions and provide solutions before a problem exists.
3. Helps gain trust from customer
Empathy and communication- it’s a two-way street. By being more empathetic to customer needs also opens a path for customers to extend their empathy towards us. Customers can pick up on an agent’s intentions, and an empathetic agent’s intentions are clear- to provide the best service to the customer. The open dialogue and understanding of intentions builds trust amongst you and your customers.
How to be more empathetic
Don’t bottle up your customer’s emotions
If customers are facing concerns, then you need to provide a space for them to express them. Whether it’s by providing a forum, or by being visible on platforms such as WhatsApp, open up the floor for open conversation.
What happens if I don’t provide this service?
If customers’ emotions are bottled up with no space to release, they will explode. And what happens whenever there’s an explosion? Damage.
They’ll explode to their friends, their families, even to their pets (if they could talk!) Negative word-of-mouth can cause serious damage to a brand’s reputation, so provide a platform for them to express.
Practice active listening
Customers don’t want to feel like they’re talking to a blank wall. So, it’s important to acknowledge their messages immediately to show that you are there, and you are listening. Use a chatbot to reply to messages instantly, to remind your customer that they are being heard, and that someone will get back to them to resolve the query.
Then allow your customers to talk about what is bothering them. Ask them more questions to get the whole picture, before jumping to a solution because what worked for one customer may not work for them- even if they are facing the same problem.
Allow them to feel heard.
Context is everything
In order to really empathize with your customer, you need context and history. Take notes about your customer. If they’re a customer that has reached out to you in the past, try to get a history lesson on their previous interaction.
Assess your customer. Are they more bubbly or serious from your understanding of their previous conversation? If they’re more bubbly, respond with the same energy. Ask questions, get the full picture, show that you’re open, and they’ll open up more.
Use all of this information to get into their shoes and you’ll master empathy.
Cultivate an empathetic customer-culture amongst your teammates
Garnering empathy requires a top-down approach. If your leadership doesn’t practice empathy and doesn’t put the customer at the center, how can you expect your teams to?
Remember that customer service is not a department, it’s a culture.
Practicing empathy only becomes possible when you have the right tools. Chatbots can provide immediate support to customers- coupled with a one-view inbox and you’ll have the full picture in seconds.
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