Empathy is one of the 54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) competencies, but it captures a lot of attention by itself. Just like you, I must ward off the societal influences and pressures to judge people and jump to conclusions and to be apathetic to others. Following many of the societal influences will lower your EQ. Many people say that as a society empathy is scarce. And that we are raising a generation that has tuned out and are socially dysfunctional. The result of this is that organizations have to spend effort and money on ways to increase customer empathy that they have never had to invest in before. And they must do it because customer experience is now the main point of competitive differentiation. And Empathy is a core component in creating exceptional customer experiences.
What is Customer Empathy
Customer Empathy is the skill of understanding how and why customers feel the way they do and to communicate it effectively. If you understand the how and why of customer feelings then you will be better prepared to solve their problems and meet their needs.
Here are 5 specific ways that companies can increase customer empathy and go about engaging customers at a significantly deeper level. Doing these things can help you to create more successful moments of truth along the customer journey.
- Become a customer (or have a close friend do it) – Go beyond mystery shopping and actually become your customer, or have a friend do it. Take the time to document every touchpoint and interaction. Pay special attention to what the perception might be if you didn’t have your knowledge. Go the extra mile and create a return, escalate a customer service interaction. Take your own survey. You will get an entirely new perspective and hopefully not lose a friend.
- Go Beyond Journey Mapping – Having an illustration of how your customers move through different touchpoints and parts of your organization is great. But mapping out their experiences in a process driven method is not enough to understand what they feel, what they see, what they say, their fears, and their motivations. In order to connect with their hearts and minds you need to conduct Empathy Mapping. Then you can walk through the customer journey and have a greater understanding of how to better engage and what you need to do to lower customer dissatisfaction.
- Increase your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) – EQ has been proven to contribute greatly to the success of individuals and organizations. Those with higher EQ outperform all others with similar intellectual knowledge. EQ helps you to relate more skillfully with fellow employees and customers. EQ helps you to control your behavior and emotions better. EQ helps you to be more self-aware and prevent being blinded by problems that increase customer effort.
- Learn a new language – The words we use can hurt others and prevent people from engaging. Is your business language full of fear invoking behavior? If your office language is full of words like risk, accountability, threats, and prohibited it’s time to stop and look at the behavior that creates. This fear prevents the ability to show customer empathy. It shuts people down and puts them in survival mode. It is counterproductive? Make sure you over-use words like opportunity, aspiration, ownership, appreciation, gratitude, hope, trust, and believe instead.
- Get your But out of the way – When you use the word “but” it most often is used to kill creative thinking. As a society we have gotten into a bad habit of saying, “Yes, but…” when we reply to a thought or idea that someone has shared. Your “but” is preventing you from experiencing a deeper level of connection and understanding. It is killing your own creativity. Next time when you have the urge to say, “Yes, but…” try to say. “Explain that a little more so I can understand better.” Then, get ready to learn something.
When customers call customer service, or anytime you attempt to connect with customers you have an opportunity to engage. As you can see your attempt to engage can be handicapped before it even occurs. Increasing customer empathy is more than just teaching people phrases like “I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this problem,” or “I know how frustrating it can be when that happens.” Because just saying those things are not enough when customers keep experiencing the same problems. Customer empathy is more than words. You must put in the environment and habits that prove you are empathetic. Because empathy only works when it’s genuine.
The best way to prevent forced empathy is to learn how not to have to use those phrases of empathy. That is what these 5 things can do you for. Build a culture of empathy.
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