Empathy in the call center: The key to outstanding customer service

Empathie im Call Center talkbase Blog

Companies like Apple show how it’s done — their training manual contains a basic guide to empathy. Employees in device support are trained to use certain formulations and to communicate understandingly in a nonverbal way. Accordingly, they can tailor their interactions to suit individual customer needs. Find out in this article what you can do to install the empathy concept methodically in customer experiences with your company.

Empathy is king — for outstanding customer experiences

Why the empathy concept is so important is something we understand intuitively: Customers are humans and as such have more feelings than rational thinking machines. That is why you should ensure that your customers feel comfortable with the way you interact with them. The best way to do this: Listen carefully to your customers, understand their concerns and provide a sympathetic service across the various touchpoints.

Experience empathy: What makes call center agents more sympathetic?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another and their situation in order to react correctly. You can score points for sympathy with methodically employed empathy instruments such as a carefully selected song in the queue or addressing a customer by name.

Digital tools for your customer service and beyond: How call center operators can be emphatic

Customers want to be treated as individuals throughout the entire customer journey. This is where your call center employees come in. With these four tips, you can raise their awareness for an emphatic approach:

  1. Train strategic off-script behavior: A script-based approach quickly disappointments callers. The focus therefore must be more on scenario training than on scripts: Teach principles rather than procedures and treat customers more like humans than buyer persona!
  2. Treat frustrating customer experiences like bugs: Bad customer service experiences should be taken just as seriously as bugs in the source code. A negative customer experience should therefore be treated as a bugfix and eliminated permanently!
  3. Discuss customer experiences: Conduct reviews and score the team for customer experiences. This serves as a reality check as feedback and provides a basis for improvement measures.
  4. Select different staff in turn to work in customer support: If possible, the head or even the CEO himself should resolve a customer problem once in a while. This will ensure that all those involved pull together, have similar customer contact experiences and can learn from each other.

Reading tip: 8 soft skills for a better customer service

Preparing for empathy: Prerequisites for optimal customer service

Restructuring your customer service can pose a significant challenge. Following best practices, without really understanding the core of empathy and customer focus, unfortunately often leads to a false front. What you really need is a real transformation.

Find the best possible answers in specific customer scenarios, e.g., “I would like to make it possible to […], so that I can do […]”. If you give a satisfactory answer, your customers will be pleased. A precondition for this, however, is that you know your customers. You can obtain this information, for example, through the following actions:

  • Observe and question your customers: Put yourself in the position of your customer and try to understand their situation. Find answers to questions such as: “What do your callers do before they contact your call center? What do they do afterwards?” or “What pain points do your customers experience in terms of the services or products offered?” The better you know how your customers feel and what they think, the more you can align your services and products to suit the needs of your target group.
  • Design empathy cards: Analyze the relation to your customers and use empathy cards. In this way, you can make a picture of how your customers think, feel, perceive, act and their specific needs as well as the advantages and added value of your product or service. Thanks to this method, you can see the results of your questions directly from a customer perspective and how your products and services are perceived by your customers.
  • Focus on your customers: Agility is also the keyword when it comes to building your services around “customer stories” and “narratives”, as perceived from a customer perspective. You can ascertain the needs of your customers, e.g., from the empathy card — in this way, your next steps can be directly aligned to meet customer requirements.
  • Structure your technical systems in line with perceived customer perspectives: Callers find it frustrating when they have to explain their concerns in five different ways, listen to four irrelevant options or an automatic system simply does not understand them. Show that you have taken all technical aspects into account, e.g., with an additional option such as “Press 5 if you have any questions regarding your contract”.
  • Provide all background information: The experience of having to repeatedly describe their concerns is frustrating for customers. A technical interface clearly showing all available customer information and data gives your agents extra seconds to provide an individualized answer — and quickly gives the customer the feeling of being understood.

As you can see, there are several things you can do to help your call center employees think and act emphatically. By using these suggestions, you can improve the customer experience in your company step by step. We wish you every success!

As a final reading tip, we recommend our blog article “How to use your call center analysis optimally”.

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