Empathy: A critical customer service component

A young writer once asked Ernest Hemingway for advice, to which he replied “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

This sentiment, though small, could be one of the most powerful lessons that you apply to your contact center. A little bit of empathy could be the missing ingredient that could launch your department to success.

This is because when customers reach out to a contact center, they want to solve an issue they are having. In most cases, they have a goal they are trying to accomplish. And this means they want something. Customers typically get worked up when they feel they are not going to get what they want.

By displaying empathy, an agent can convey that they are doing everything in their power to help the customer. And while an agent may not always be able to solve a problem, sometimes it’s more about working with the customer and going above and beyond for him or her. Customers, in turn, are more liable to respond by being nicer, friendlier and more accepting when things do not go their way.

Here are some ways that you can make your contact center more empathetic to your customers’ needs:

Reward empathy: While performing spot checks for quality control, and assessing agent performance, keep an eye out for interactions where agents do a great job of listening and talking to customers. By rewarding and incentivizing empathy, you will give agents a reason to want to be better at communicating with customers and helping them.

Host empathy training: Let’s face it: Not everyone is, by nature, empathetic. Most people are talkers, rather than listeners and will greatly benefit from active listening training. So, break your contact center agents down into small teams and offer strategies that they can use to be more empathetic during conversations. Then, encourage them to apply their knowledge when interacting with customers.

Avoid interrupting: Sometimes, customers will get upset and go on long rants. When this happens, the best thing that an agent can do is avoid interrupting. Instead, encourage agents to be silent and look for opportunities to enter into the conversation. Agents should never try and speak over a customer, for this can backfire and lead to a full-blown argument which won’t help anything.

Reiterate talking points: Encourage agents to repeat phrases or ideas when interacting with customers. This strategy is a great way to let customers know they are being heard, and that their ideas are actually being registered.

Instead of trying to change the way your agents communicate with customers, you may want to take the easier and more effective approach which is to outsource customer service operations to a third party solutions provider.