Intelligent Help Desk Blog

5 Steps to Teaching Empathy to Customer Service Reps

Posted by Meredith Estepon Tue, Nov 15, 2011 @ 08:45 AM

dreamstime 11236243 empathyEmpathy, the art of seeing a situation through a customer’s eyes, is an essential component to a successful customer service culture. However, empathy doesn’t come naturally to everyone you hire to work in your call center or behind your counter. The good news is that empathy is also a skill that can be learned through a few simple steps. We have a path to empathy that will raise your customer service to a whole new level.

Define Empathy

Before you can expect your customer service reps to show empathy to customers, they need to understand exactly what empathy is. Empathy is not sympathy, where you simply feel bad about someone’s situation without doing anything about it. Empathy is not restricted to problem-solving, since a frustrated customer will want his feelings acknowledged before he is ready to accept your solution. Instead, empathy is the art of understanding and acknowledging a customer’s feelings and needs, before finding a solution that meets them. When a customer feels understood and cared about, he is better prepared to work with your company over the long haul.

Learn to Listen

There are different types of listening skills that people employ every day, but not all of them are the appropriate choice for customer service. Empathetic listening involves paying attention to a wide range of signals from the speaker, including the tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. This type of listening is imperative if you want your customer service reps to have a full understanding of the customer’s problem and provide the most effective and appropriate feedback to the customer.

Pass it Down

If you want your staff to show empathy to your customers, you must begin by showing empathy to your staff. Stand in your customer service rep’s shoes on occasion to understand just how stressful those shoes can be when working with customers every day. When a customer has to be referred higher up the ladder for additional assistance, make sure your managers are also well versed on how to show empathy so they can serve as an effective role model and example for the rest of your staff.

Build Rapport with Customers

To have empathy for another individual, it is important to have some sort of relationship with that person first. This doesn’t have to be terribly involved; a pleasant rapport with your customers is sufficient for setting that empathy machine in motion. Train your staff to exchange pleasantries with customers when they come into your office. Through easy conversation, your reps and customers will get to know one another enough that empathy will be a natural response when a customer comes in with a problem.

Try Team Building Exercises

There are plenty of good team building exercises to perform with your customer service reps for the purpose of building empathy. Listening games and role play activities allow employees to put what they learn in training sessions into practice and give them a chance to exercise their new empathy muscles before they actually put them to use with customers.

Empathy is an essential characteristic for any effective customer service team. By following these five steps, you can transform your customer service department into a caring, understanding and helpful branch of your business.

- Meredith Estep

Topics: Empathy, meredith estep, intelligent help desk, Help Desk, Unitiv's Intelligent Help Desk