Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. When it comes to business, “another” is your customer. You need to understand the feelings of your customers if you want to improve their experience. You should be invested in improving customer experience because it is a major factor in the success of your business. Consumers want to give their money to businesses that understand their needs and expectations and meet them. The truly excellent businesses don’t just meet customer expectations, they exceed them. Providing excellent customer experience drives up customer engagement, retention, and sales, so it’s in your best interest to make it a top priority. The key to unlocking customer experience success is empathy.
5 Reasons Why Customer Empathy Should Be a Top Priority for Your Business
To Help You Create Actionable Goals
All the information you get from your customers is valuable information. We’d all love to have happy customers all the time, but this just isn’t realistic. By talking to your customers and engaging with them empathetically, you encourage them to open up about their experience with your company. You should be capturing all of the interactions you get with customers and turning this data into actionable goals. Actionable goals are how you move your business forward.
To Understand Where Friction Lies in Your Customer Journey and How to Fix It
No customer journey is completely frictionless, but this should be the goal you are working towards. If your customers are complaining about how difficult it was to reach your customer service team, how confusing your checkout system is, and how your website doesn’t work properly on their phone, these aren’t things you should ignore with the intent of solving another time. Just because you can’t fix something right now doesn’t mean you can’t show empathy to your customers and ask them for details on how they found the experience with your company. You may just find there are additional details that you failed to consider simply because you are too close to the business to see where the friction is.
To Understand What Problem Your Business Fixes
Whether you’re selling a product or a service, your business is solving a problem for customers. However, sometimes our intentions for the product and how they are actually used and perceived by customers are different. If you approach interactions with your customers with empathy, you can have an open dialogue about how exactly your product or service is being used. Is it helping solve their problem? Is there something customers wish they could have? Is your product being used for something you didn’t intend? These are all questions you can ask customers when they think you’re a company that listens and cares about what they have to say.
To Improve Your Customer Service Interactions
How your agents talk to your customers is critical to the customer experience. Businesses are now moving away from the practice of having a predefined script that all agents must follow and moving to a more flexible and dynamic approach to customer service. All communication starts with empathy, whether that’s in a customer service setting, or just when you’re going about your daily life. You need to approach customers with a level of open-minded understanding if you want them to feel positive about the interaction.
To Improve the Customer Experience
The customer experience you provide is your unique selling point. If you want to improve the customer experience you provide, then you need to understand firstly what sets you apart from the competition, and secondly, how you can do it better. Customer experience is the reason your customers keep coming back to you when there are other options available. However, if you fail to meet the customer’s expectations, they will look elsewhere. This is why you need to build a customer-centric business, and customer-centricity starts with empathy. You can’t build a business focused on customers if you don’t understand your customers.
How to Build Empathy Into Your Business Strategy
Talk to Your Customers Frequently
If you run a customer service operation, then you are talking to your customers every day. But simply responding to customer problems isn’t enough. You need to be proactive about talking to your customers and discussing their wants and needs, as well as any issues they are facing with your company. You don’t have to wait for them to come to you, you can go to them. There are a couple of ways to do this.
- Run surveys: Send out regular surveys to your customers and ask them for feedback on your business. Many businesses think surveys are a poor use of time. Only around 2% of consumers will indeed complete your questionnaire, so you might be concerned that you aren’t capturing the feelings of your whole customer base. There are a couple of ways to entice your customers to give feedback.
Firstly, you should keep the surveys short so that they don’t take up too much of your customer’s time. You should include free-text boxes as well as multiple choice answers, but don’t force customers to fill out the free-text boxes. These free-text boxes five customers the opportunity to expand on an issue if they want to, which can be extremely valuable for your business. Sometimes when we are designing a questionnaire, we could be missing something obvious to consumers but not obvious to workers. However, a customer may decide not to survey all if they feel forced to spend more time on it than they would like. Communicate with your customers that it will be a short survey. You could also offer an incentive for completing the survey, such as loyalty points or a discount on their next purchase.
- Encourage customer service agents to ask open-ended questions to customers: Customer service agents are often put under immense time constraints and this encourages them to ask short closed questions to get to the route of the problem as quickly as possible. However, customers don’t like to feel rushed through the process. They want to be listened to, and asking open-ended questions is a great way to understand what your customers think of your business.
- Engage with customers on social media: Your social media accounts aren’t just for broadcasting your carefully tailored messages out to the world. Sure, they’re a great tool for marketing, but consumers don’t like to be bombarded with offers, corporate-speak, and the same old company Tweets. Instead, you should be socializing. Reply to the tweets you get from customers. Ask customers questions and engage in one-on-one conversations. This is how you drive up engagement and let your customers know that you’re always available to talk to them.
Create Empathy Statements
Empathy statements are short phrases you can create that help you establish a connection with a customer. This isn’t about creating a script, but rather knowing some key phrases that can help foster empathy and build a rapport. These phrases should be used only where it is appropriate so that it comes across as organic.
Examples of Empathy Statements and Some Tips
- Use the
active voice rather than the passive voice. Without delving into the grammar lesson here, the active
voice is where the subject of the sentence performs the action (verb), and the
passive voice is where the subject is acted upon by the verb. It sounds
complicated, but it’s actually very easy to detect and can have a huge effect
on how the customer perceives what is being said. Let’s look at some examples:
- Active voice: I will ask the sales team to look at this.
- Passive voice: This will be looked at by the sales team.
The statements convey the same message, but the first statement sounds better to customers. It shows an element of responsibility for the situation and sounds more immediate. The passive version sounds less immediate and makes customers feel less sure of who is handling the problem. In the second statement it isn’t clear who is asking the sales team to look at the problem, it just says it will be looked at, but if you don’t know who’s asking, then how can you be sure it will be done? This is the subtle but important difference between the two statements.
If you’re still unsure whether you’re using the passive voice or active voice, there’s a trick you can use. If you can add the phrase “by robots” to the end of the sentence, then you’re using the passive voice. This might sound a bit silly, but it’s a simple way to keep the passive voice in check and it’s something you won’t forget. For example:
- Active: I will look at this.
- Passive: This will be looked at by robots.
- Active: We have renewed your subscription.
- Passive: Your subscription has been renewed by robots.
- Active: I have applied a discount to your account.
- Passive: A discount has been applied to your account by robots.
Your customers want to talk to humans, not robots. They even want their robots to sound human, so that is how you should communicate.
- Use “I” and “you”, rather than “we”. It’s tempting to agents to refer to themselves as part of the company collective by saying “we”, but it’s harder for the customer to establish a connection with the whole company than one agent. “I” is more personal and makes customers feel like you are personally invested in helping them.
- Don’t be too formal. Customers want to feel like they’re having a conversation with a real person, so talk like a real person. This means you should use the informal version of words where appropriate. For example, say “thanks” instead of “thank you”.
- Always clarify the issue. If a customer has come to you with a problem, you should repeat the problem back to them by saying phrases like “I just want to check I have the understanding, if I have something wrong, please tell me”.
- Offer reassurance. You should thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention and assure them that it will be dealt with and that they will be updated on any progress. You can say phrases like “I will contact you as soon as I have an update on the issue”.
- When it comes to closing the call, always ask if there’s something else you can help them with. This displays that you’re always ready to listen to customers and address their concerns.
- Use positive words in your interactions. For example, you could say “I will definitely help you with this”, “Great news”, “That is exactly right”.
Other Ways to Incorporate Empathy Into Your Business
Make Your Ethics Clear
We live in an increasingly ethics focused world where the consumer base is more informed on social, ethical, and political issues than ever before. You don’t have to broadcast all of your beliefs, but there are some simple ways you can let your customers know you are an ethical company. Let’s take a look.
- Consider donating to a charity. Many companies allow their employees to pick the charity the company supports. This is a great way of engaging your employees and ensuring that your company is in-line with your workers.
- Consider hosting volunteer days for employees so they can take time off work to make a difference in your local community.
- If you have a stance on sustainability then make it known. Consumers are becoming increasingly invested in environmental concerns so if this is something you also care about, make it known to your customers.
- Share your diversity and inclusion statements and statistics.
The cost of being perceived as an unethical company can be severe. According to one report, 35% of consumers will stop buying from a brand they perceive as unethical, even if there is no alternative.
Empathy Isn’t Just For Customers
Displaying empathy towards your customers will go a long way to improving your success, but empathy should extend to your whole organization. This means creating ethical policies for employees so they feel appreciated and supported in their roles. Happier employees are more likely to stay with your business and work to improve it.