Empathy: At the Heart of a Great Customer Experience

The recent health crisis has made the human touch and empathy more crucial than ever in brand and customer relationships. Despite the increase in automated service and the prevalent use of AI technology, customers today need the reassurance and compassion that only humans can offer. Empathy is an evolving emotion in today’s world, leading people to question their lifestyles, communication methods, and purchasing processes.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to perceive another person’s emotions, imagine what the person may be thinking or feeling, and understand why he feels a certain way. Empathy is further defined in three types. Cognitive empathy demonstrates the ability to understand someone’s feelings without necessarily sharing those feelings. Emotional empathy means that one feels what another person is feeling and forges an emotional connection with that person. Compassionate empathy compels a person to take action. In customer relationships, brands must convey all three types of empathy in order to deliver a quality customer experience with a human touch.

Why empathy matters in customer service

Empathy allows agents to forge a human connection with customers for virtually every purpose, including giving advice, reassuring upset customers, and driving sales, to name a few. Brands that show empathy during customer interactions stand out from competitors that lack the human touch and are better poised to win long-term loyalty.

How empathy can be used to win customer loyalty

Empathy can win customer trust and loyalty in numerous ways. Specifically, brands may show empathy to:

Reassure customers

Customers often need to be reassured for different reasons. An expensive purchase, for example, might create anxiety and lead a customer to verify details such as delivery status. Some products or services such as insurance and telecommunications contracts often require an explanation of terms before purchase, so a customer needs a patient, empathic agent who can assist him to make the right choice. Customers may also find themselves in difficult situations that create strong emotions. For example, needing to reschedule a missed flight or report a theft or accident to an insurance company can be extremely stressful. For this reason, agents must show empathy to calm down customers and offer the best solution possible.

Deliver personalized assistance

In addition to reassuring customers in complex situations, empathy can also be applied to the sales process. When an agent uses emotive language to better understand what a customer wants to purchase, he is conveying empathy and earning the customer’s trust. This empathy can then help the agent convince the customer to purchase not just any product or service, but what the customer actually wants. The agent’s empathy is rooted in an honest desire to help the customer make the best purchase. These customers will later show a greater willingness to buy from the brands that value their needs.

Resolve conflicts

When agents speak to upset customers, the situation can be very delicate. Empathy is needed to understand a customer’s problem, calm down his emotions, and eventually offer an efficient solution. Agents must accept responsibility for a company’s failure to deliver on a promise and offer a solution in a reassuring tone. They must also take the time to explain the proposed solution and ask the customer how he feels about it and if he has any questions. This respectful dialogue can help regain customer trust.

Communicate efficiently

Empathy is key to relaying the right messages at the right time and on the right channel. Every channel may have its own conversational style and using the right language to fit the channel is important. For example, social media channels may have a light tone and use emojis, while email might use a more serious tone. Every action a brand takes requires its own appropriate tone. Advertising a product on social media, announcing a product recall on a brand website or IVR menu, or speaking to a frustrated customer on the phone are all different contexts which must use different language and tone to reach customers.

The limitations of empathy in customer service

While empathy is essential to humanizing customer experiences, there are some limitations to the way it may be used. For example, it is impossible for agents to put themselves completely in customers’ shoes, since perceptions are affected by personal experiences, values, and frustrations. This means that brands cannot always comprehend exactly what customers need. Agents must also be careful not to become overwhelmed or turned off by a customer’s words, or else his efficiency will be affected and prevent him from delivering a professional or fitting solution. Lastly, empathy must never be used to manipulate, especially in a customer service context. Brands must always strive for transparency and honesty and protect customer interests at all times.

Empathy allows companies to humanize interactions with customers and offer reassurance, especially during the current health context that continues to add stress to people’s lives. Brands that demonstrate empathy in an authentic way will perform better than their competitors. Showing customers that you value them as people leads to long-term loyalty and greater customer satisfaction.

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