Building an Empathetic Customer Service Team

A customer’s journey encompasses much more than the exchange of money for goods or services. It’s about filling needs, solving problems, and completing tasks. But the reality is that each customer’s journey is subject to hiccups along the way. A fact that underscores the importance of a commitment to offering superior customer service.

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In recent years, one of the traits most synonymous with superior customer service has been empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand or feel what someone else is experiencing. This social skill has become a must-have on customer service agent job descriptions as businesses work to meet heightened customer expectations. As we explore customer empathy for better customer service interactions, here are some tips to relay that can help agents better connect with customers.

Recognize and acknowledge the problem

We’ve all heard wild tales of the most comical complaints heard by customer service agents. But, the overwhelming majority of calls and emails into a contact center are legitimate issues. The first thing for an empathic agent to do is to recognize the problem. This simple act can mitigate anger and help unite the agent and customer. It’s the first in a series of connection points that are linked together until the problem is solved. 

Practice active listening

Most of us are guilty of listening with the intent to respond, and not actually comprehending what the other person is saying. Active listening for customer service is about using all of your senses to fully understand what message the customer is trying to convey. This can include verbal and non-verbal cues like body language and mood. Throughout the conversation, be sure to repeat and confirm to ensure what you’re hearing is correct.

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Make customers feel like they are being heard

One of the foundational elements of using empathy for customer service is making customers feel like they are being heard. That includes not interrupting and allowing the customer to vent. All while also making it clear that you can see things from their perspective. Learning to slip your feet into someone else’s shoes isn’t easy, but it will ultimately make you a better customer service agent.

Wipe away any preconceived notions

Here’s another one that can be tough, but it’s absolutely necessary. Most of us learned a long time ago not to insert preconceived notions into an initial interaction, but it can be especially important for customer service agents who may be naturally skeptical. An agent must be able to overcome any inherent bias to be naturally skeptical if they want to truly be empathic toward customers.

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Solve the problem

While it’s impossible to do in every situation, solving the customer’s problem should always be the end goal. Sympathy might instill a feeling of compassion, but empathy motivates. Your agent will definitely go to great lengths to make things right. Consider seeing a friend on the side of the road with a flat tire. A sympathetic person will feel sorry that their friend could be late for an appointment, but an empathetic person might drive them to the appointment or to a tire shop. The same premise applies to empathetic customer service agents who customers rely on to solve their problems. Empathetic people work hard to make customers happy.

Utility Partners of America (UPA) has extensive experience across more than two decades working with utilities and energy cooperatives on project management, operations, professional services, customer care, and more. If you’re ever interested in learning about the insights we’ve gleaned over the years on empathetic customer service, or you want to learn how we can help your utility, contact us today.