Why is empathy important for customer service?
When it comes to delivering great customer service, there may be no way to do it consistently well without the ability to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. That means listening to their concerns and applying what you learn to how you handle the interaction.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to responding to customer issues. Every engagement is a personal one. Taking into account what you know about them and their problem is basic table stakes, not an enhancement. The ability to understand and identify with the feelings of your customer to better address their needs and concerns at any point of their buyer's journey will make or break every customer relationship you have.
By now, it’s evident that the customer experience is a huge part of what’s driving the success of every brand. It's what can differentiate you from the competition. By offering genuine empathy to your customers, you’re able to establish a meaningful and trusting relationship, which in turn helps increase customer satisfaction, revenue, and brand loyalty.
What’s the difference between empathy and sympathy in customer service?
While empathy and sympathy can’t be used interchangeably, we tend to use these terms in similar contexts.
The main difference between the two is that sympathy is the act of sharing the feelings of another person, whereas empathy requires you to understand the feelings of another person. Sympathy can create an imbalance as it takes on feelings of pitying or feeling sorry for someone else, whereas empathy allows you to connect with people as you approach their problems from a non-judgmental standpoint and feel what they're feeling, regardless of whether or not you're familiar with this particular experience.
In the world of eCommerce and social shopping, customers are looking for a sense of belonging and community created by the brand. With empathy, brands are able to create this deeper and more meaningful experience for their customers that will essentially drive business and visibility.
COVID-19 has fundamentally altered the way customers expect to receive customer service. This was the first time most people had first-hand experience with a major pandemic, and while this caused disruptions to the economy and our daily routines, the biggest impact came in our home lives, with family members moving back home, caring for ill family members, and the overall sense of fear and distress across the world.
This was a time when empathy went a long way as a customer. In fact, in 2020, 59% of people said they look for higher quality in customer care than they did a year earlier. In a time like this, the ability to actually put yourself in someone else's shoes helped brands thrive as a business because they were able to make their customers feel understood and cared for.
It starts with your team members
You can’t incorporate empathy into your customer experience without making empathy a strong pillar of your company culture.
According to Businessolver’s State of Workplace Empathy study, 82% of employees would leave their position to work for a more empathetic organization. When employees are greeted with empathy within the workplace, they feel a greater sense of connection and fulfillment to the organization, which overall increases retention. This is then carried on to external interactions with both customers and potential customers, ultimately driving business.
For the most part, empathy is taught during our upbringing by caregivers, teachers, and fellow members of our community. However, it is not uncommon to recognize some sort of gap amongst adults when it comes to empathy. Employers can use this as a learning and development opportunity by providing empathy training for customer service and sales teams in order to build positive and sustainable relationships with key stakeholders.
5 ways to show empathy in customer service
1. Actively listen
We sometimes find ourselves working out a response in our head when someone is speaking to us, rather than listening with the intent to understand where they’re coming from. Showing empathy means paying attention to someone's facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
2. Acknowledge, repeat, and confirm
By paraphrasing the information that was said to you, you're reassuring the other person that you clearly understand what’s being said and want to eliminate any room for miscommunication.
3. Ask instead of assuming
At the core of empathy is curiosity and genuine interest. Asking the right questions to understand the entire situation will make someone feel seen. Examples of follow-up questions can be “Tell me more about…” or “How do you think this is affecting you?” Be sure to give the person time to reflect and answer comfortably.
4. Approach the problem from the customer’s perspective
Being respectful is key to showing empathy. Have a positive attitude, and try to keep your own biases at the door when trying to understand someone else.
5. Provide solutions or suggestions
If someone is expressing their concerns about a situation and you know of a way you can help, ask them if you can offer them a solution. If they’re open to it, provide some advice that can be of benefit to them. And remember it's okay if they decide not to take it.
Are you ready to empathize with customers and amplify the right experiences?
Brands need to understand that it's all about how you make your customers feel. It's imperative that good customer care is never sacrificed in the name of business, and every interaction is led with empathy to maintain happy customers. At Emplifi, our experience runs deep, and our commitment to every client remains as strong as ever.
With AI-powered, cloud-based tools for digital self-service, agent case management, all the way to social customer care, Emplifi Service Cloud equips brands and customer-facing agents with everything they need to deliver empathetic customer care experiences at scale.