The dictionary definition of empathy is: the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person's feelings. In other words, for customer service providers, it’s the ability to put yourself in the customers’ place.
Empathy is sensing and understanding the emotions of others even when they might not be clearly or directly stating what they are seeking. This is an ability that takes time to hone in a professional capacity. Oddly though, it's a customer service skills that can actually erode. Seasoned customer service professionals sometimes develop cynical feelings that devolve into a negative attitude towards customers and the problems they present. We call this erosion ‘burn out’ and we see it in customer care providers on overload who focus more on their own needs than on the needs of the customer.
You need to be able to actively listen and involve yourself in what the customer is telling you about their situation. This allows you to combine your knowledge of the company, product, and/or service to assign an appropriate solution that the customer might not have the expertise to discover for his or her self.
If you are only following policy and not listening, you may miss important special considerations that need to be taken into account. Efficiently melding policy with client needs is a hallmark sign of high quality customer service. Those who are good at empathy can often win the trust of even the most dissatisfied customers because those customers will feel they have someone on their side at last. Someone who finally "gets it" rather than rattling off a script or company procedure.
But what about the days when you just don’t have any empathy in you? That’s the time when you have to "act as if". Remind yourself before each client interaction that you want to find the ideal solution for that customer and then put yourself in their shoes as they describe their needs or request. Fortunately, when you are ‘acting’ empathetic, psychologists now believe that we actually begin to internalize that quality. Attitude follows behavior. So a customer care professional might start the day 'acting' helpful but find that they've genuinely internalized it after the first few client interactions.
The bottom line is, developing your empathy skills will help you see from the client's perspective. That perspective will provide a compelling reason for you to find suitable solutions for client issues and requests and that improves customer relationships.
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