Manilka Ediriweera asserts that empathy matters when dealing with clients

If you have, you probably know how difficult and frustrating it gets when customer support is terrible. If you haven’t however, you’re lucky to have had no bad experiences.

There is a very thin line between good and bad customer service. Think of a time when you had a bad experience. Didn’t you feel powerless and angry, and want to consider an alternative option to obtain the same goods or services? I’m sure you did.

Now, think back to a time when your customer experience was great. It would have made you feel loyal to the business or become a frequent consumer of the brand – all because the organisation made you feel as if your concerns were heard and taken seriously.

That’s why the line between good and bad service is a critical differentiating factor determining the success and failure of any business. This is where customer service empathy comes into play. It’s an absolute deal breaker, and smart businesses should incorporate it across all service interactions.

Only those who harness the power of customer service empathy will flourish while others will flounder.

In a broad sense, empathy is the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes, and understand and share their feelings. In customer service, empathy is all about identifying and understanding buyers’ issues, and offering them the best possible solutions by putting yourself in their position.

So why is empathy so important? Because when service personnel understand people better, they are able to foster and build solid and long-term customer relationships that are based on loyalty. As a result, they improve customer satis­faction and boost the business’ reputation.

Customers want to be valued and understood. They also want to know that the business they support will be there for them in turn. Shoppers also value the human connection and interaction. So empathetic communica­tion and listening are vital for successful customer service especially in times of uncertainty such as that we are currently experiencing.

But even in instances in which you didn’t get what you wanted, there may have been some occasions when you were satisfied with the service you received. And that is a result of empathy in customer service. However, such instances aren’t everyday occurrences.

All in all, it can be said that empathy and client service go hand in hand, and can set apart average service from excellent customer relations.

The good thing about empathy is that it can be taught to those who aren’t naturally empathetic. And it’s essential to do so to inculcate empathy in your organisation’s culture. Here’s how you can build and improve customer service empathy.

LISTEN ACTIVELY Making customers feel that their concerns are heard is crucial. So letting them express their concerns before jumping to conclusions or offering solutions is essential. Let the client finish talking and then respond. Restate using their words, ask follow-up questions and remember what they have said.

ELIMINATE BIAS Whether we do it consciously or unconsciously, we sometimes tend to make judgements based on colour, gender, accent, language and religion. And that may make us treat specific clients differently. In customer service, prejudices present a barrier between you and the buyer.

POSITIVE WORDS By using positive language, you can improve the client’s satisfaction and engagement while staying in control of the conversation. Whether it’s an angry customer or a calm one, it’s important to use positive language and empathetic phrases when addressing his or her concerns.

THE DIFFERENCE Understand the difference between sympathy and empathy. Being sympathetic alone will not help your customer feel valued. You need to show that their concerns matter and that you’re working to address the issue. That’s why using empathetic statements matter.

BE RESPECTFUL Always remember that your responsibility is to help the customer. So even if the conversation is heading south, be mindful about keeping your attitude and manners in check. Look at things from their perspective; and by doing so, you will be able to view the problem from a whole new viewpoint and be of more assistance.

This is how you can develop empathy in customer service and be there for your clients when required.

While it may not always be possible to provide the right solution, you have the power to do what is most suitable for the buyer.

You can provide a meaningful human interaction to deliver positive brand experiences and drive brand perception. So always go the extra mile to reinforce their value to the business.