“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” ~Unknown

You may think customer service is all about solving problems, but that would be a mistake. Solving problems is only part of the equation. The primary goal of customer service is to create a positive experience where people relate with your company. That can come from solving a problem, but that is not always the case.

As the saying goes, “People remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.” So make sure that service is memorable for all the right reasons. 

When a customer reaches out with a problem or concern, they want to know they are being heard and taken seriously. They want to know the person on the other end (of the phone, email, chat box, etc.) truly understands their problem and appreciates what they are going through. And while a service rep cannot always solve a problem, they can always show empathy.

Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person”. Nothing is more powerful in a customer service interaction than an employee who genuinely empathizes with a customer and his or her situation. And while some people believe you are born with this quality, empathy is something that can actually be learned. We can all take the time to imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes, and allow ourselves to share what that person is going through. It’s trying to understand what another person is feeling. And it starts with a willingness to listen.

Empathy is easy to say, but hard to do. Many problems could be solved if people were just a bit more empathetic. And of course, great leadership starts with empathy.

I tell a story in my book, Repeat Business Inc: The Business of Staying in Business (shameless plug!) about an airline employee from a competing airline who helped a stranded newlywed couple get to their honeymoon destination when their initial airline refused to help. She cared because she knew how important it was for this newly married couple to get to their honeymoon cruise, and she put herself in their place. She genuinely cared, and worked hard on her own time to help this couple. She was the definition of “empathetic.”

To be your most empathetic self, remember:

  • Be present and in the moment; put away distractions.
  • Listen without interrupting. It usually takes only 2 minutes for customers to explain their concerns.
  • Don’t be judgmental
  • Be respectful. Even if you don’t agree with what the customer is saying, or how they are saying it, stay polite and calm.
  • If you’re with the person, look for non-verbal communication signs such as facial expressions and tone of voice. You can learn a lot from what they’re not saying.
  • Make sure you understand the problem or situation

Make sure empathy is part of your corporate training program for all employees, not just those on the front lines. It’s important to review it at least once every year. Bring in outside trainers to make it fun and educational with games and interactive exercises if necessary.

It’s important that all customers walk away with a positive feeling about your company, even if their problem or concern could not be remedied. When your customers know you truly value, appreciate and respect them, they will return the feeling, and that will ultimately lead to more repeat business and customer loyalty.

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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