Is It Possible For Communicators to Be Too Empathetic?

Not everyone is cut out to be a contact center agent. These individuals must have a very specific set of unique skills to successful perform their jobs. After all, it takes a certain type of person to deal with a range of customers each and every day.

Empathy is a critical skill that all successful Communicators must have. Typically, when a customer dials into a customer service center he or she has some type of problem or frustration that they need solved. When a customer raises an issue, it’s important that Communicators show sufficient understanding or sympathy for his or her problem.

But is there such thing as being too empathetic?

A recent Fortune article, titled “Dear Customer Service Centers, Please Stop It With the Scripted Empathy,” brings to light an interesting point about the idea of exuding empathy to consumers in the customer care industry. The author of the article suggests that, perhaps, in certain situations exuding too much compassion can actually be off-putting for the customer on the other end of the line.

The author also touches on the fact that scripted empathy can be damaging to a company. While scripts are meant to help guide Communicators, many companies rely too heavily on them. Rather than coming off as a compassionate human, Communicators end up sounding like a carefully programmed robot that has no emotions.

The fact of the matter is, empathy can’t be scripted and the level of compassion Communicators display should depend on the customer complaint and type of interaction. Communicators should be trained to quickly identify a customer’s personality type—for example, thinker, feeler, director—and choose the appropriate path to solution.

Let’s say, for example, that a customer calls in about a small issue with his bill. The individual calling in is in a rush and isn’t much of a talker. Chances are this person wants the situation to be quickly rectified so he can go on his way. Rather than go into a 90-second speech thanking him for his loyalty and apologizing for the incident, it’s best to make a short (but sincere) apology and assure him that the problem will be solved quickly.

Now in this situation it was okay for the agent to simply cut to the chase, but in other instances Communicators might have to take a more delicate approach. Let’s say, for example, that a customer calls in and immediately goes into a rant about an issue with her service. In this situation, it’s important for the agent to listen intently and sympathize with the customer, reassuring her that you understand the problem and that you will do your best to help solve it.

There’s no magic wand that will give your Communicators the know-how to successfully read a situation and act appropriately. It takes extensive training and practice to instill this type of skill in your employees. Therefore, make sure that you’re giving them the necessary training and time to build their confidence.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.