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The goal of every organization should be to keep customers happy. It’s the definition of quality customer service. And it sounds simple: exceed customer expectations. The question is, “How?”

Giving customers what they think they want may satisfy their immediate needs, but it’s not enough for a long-term partnership. The true key to high-quality customer service in the call center is understanding your customers and empathizing with them.

The Importance of Empathy in Customer Service

Customers often don’t know what is really best for them. They want to talk to someone who really cares about them and their problems, and they’ll make decisions based on how they feel after that interaction (95% of purchases are made subconsciously). That’s why it’s so important for your customer service agents to go beyond being “an expert,” and instead become someone your customers’ trust and have a rapport with.

The mindset of your agents has to be “listen and learn” first, and then show “real interest” and “genuine concern” for the customer’s problems. When you empathize with your customers, it results in:

  • Increased satisfaction,
  • More brand advocates,
  • More brand loyalty,
  • And repeat purchases.

The customer-agent partnership should be all about mutual interest and mutual respect. So, how can your agents establish the level of customer intimacy required to have meaningful dialogue? We’ve collected the top customer service tips for call centers when it comes to developing empathy and delighting your customers.

7 Empathy-Focused Customer Service Tips for Call Centers

Eighty percent of companies think they deliver superior service, but only 8 percent of customers agree with them. Why the discrepancy?

While agents are focused on carrying out their responsibilities, making their numbers, keeping their boss happy, and keeping their jobs, they don’t see far enough down the road. They are transaction-oriented, and they are falling short of connecting with your customers first and foremost.

The solution is to use empathy to focus on making your customers feel like valued individuals instead of a number in your queue. Here’s how.

Tip 1: Recognize that your customers are real people.

Your customers want someone who expresses genuine interest in them. A compliment is always welcome. It’s good to recognize and appreciate the customer’s hard work and accomplishments—as well as their business challenges and roadblocks.

Recognize that the customer’s job is hard. They want to interact with someone who wants not only to solve their problem, but to do it enthusiastically and confidently. The customer load may seem a little lighter if the agent is ready to do what’s needed for them.

Empathetic phrases to use:

  • How can I help you and your business?
  • I appreciate your patience.
  • Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.

Tip 2: Share valuable knowledge and insights

Customers want to deal with someone who shares valuable knowledge and insights; they are looking for an informed consultant. The key is to be empathetic. Your agent’s tone needs to put your customers at ease, delivering the product/service as requested and in the way they want. Be where the customer is. Meet them where they’re at and go the extra mile.

Empathetic phrases to use:

  • Personally, I would recommend…
  • Consider X product/service; it should be helpful.
  • I think you’ll find the situation much better if you try X.

Tip 3: Create a personal connection and build rapport

Agents shouldn’t be afraid of getting personal with customers. A personal connection is critical to customer satisfaction and should be a basic tool in every agent’s kit.

Your agents need to be able to recognize how a customer is feeling, share their understanding of the situation, and speak about more than just the problem. A little bit of personality can go a long way.

  • Empathetic phrases to use:
  • I completely understand and would feel the same way.
  • That would frustrate me, too.
  • How’s the weather there? It’s hot/cold/windy/beautiful here.

Tip 4: Develop best practices for emotionally intelligent conversations

Once your contact center has identified the behaviors and the conversations that work best, you can move that model to the assembly line for every customer. It can become your benchmark for performance—as long as it’s tied to direct (measurable) actions.

For example, you might create a set of to-dos based on empathy for every call, email, live chat, and text.

  • Identify the customer’s current mood. Is it positive or negative?
  • Ask questions to identify the customer’s need—the reason for their call/email/chat.
  • Outline a path for improving the customer’s mood while meeting their needs.
  • Explain how the customer’s perception changed by the end of the interaction.

By following each of these steps, your agents will have no choice but to build empathy into their interactions and grow their own emotional intelligence. And by recognizing each customer for who they are and reinforcing the behaviors that delight the customer, you’ll create a model of best practices that will take customer service from ordinary to extraordinary.

Tip 5: Use self-scorecards to monitor agent emotional intelligence

While it can be difficult to measure emotional intelligence and the use of empathy, there are ways to monitor it during interactions. Self-scorecards can help your agents monitor every interaction and determine how well they’re demonstrating empathy.

With a self-scorecard, you can measure:

  • How well they recognized the customer’s mood.
  • How well they provided the customer what they wanted.
  • How they changed the customer’s perception either positively or negatively.

Based on the questions you ask, you can then gather a baseline for empathy within your call center and then provide additional training or offer rewards from there.

Learn more about How to Measure Emotional Intelligence in Your Employees.

Tip 6: Train your agents in empathy and emotional intelligence.

While creating a call center script that builds in empathetic phrases, questions, and comments can be valuable, it does not actually build empathy. Your agents need to be empowered to handle any customer situation with empathy as their guide. To do this, training is required.

When it comes to training for empathy, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Focus on tone first. Put your agents through call simulations to gauge their reactions and take note of their tone.
  • Create strategies for your agents to deal with stress and irritation without passing that frustration onto the customer.
  • Identify patterns in your agent’s behavior that can be nurtured or curbed to ingrain positive actions.
  • Eliminate bias and preexisting ideas by teaching your agents to put themselves in the shoes of the customer.

Tip 7: Reward agents who demonstrate empathy

Management should reward agents who demonstrate empathy. Emotionally intelligent agents are crucial to your customer’s journey and will deliver far more equity and lifetime value. And any process that makes it easier for customers to work with you should be promoted throughout your organization.

And remember, rewards can and should be more than just words. Offer tangible prizes such as:

  • Shift changes,
  • Gift cards,
  • Bonuses,
  • And priority scheduling.

Empathy is Good for Business

The bottom line is that it is in everyone’s best interest to delight your customers with empathy. Customers who are pleased with their experiences will be less price-sensitive and more likely to do repeat business with you. They will also become your advocates and your best salespeople by recommending you to their business associates.

Learn How to Measure Emotional Intelligence

Tags: Quality Assurance Best Practices, Customer Experience & Service, Agent Soft Skills