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5 Tips for Training Your Contact Center Employees To Be More Empathetic

by | May 4, 2020 | Customer Experience, CX Career

Why is empathy so crucial for business? Why can’t you just make the best product that’s out there or offer the best service possible and expect people to be happy about it?

Because humans are sentient beings.

Empathy is directly correlated to all the critical business metrics that help your brand grow. But here’s the thing with empathy— In the customer service universe, lack of empathy means apathy – usually to the point of no return for businesses that aren’t careful about it.

The power of customer loyalty is very underrated in today’s world. The empathy your frontline employees exhibit in their day to day interactions with your customers will have a direct impact on customer satisfaction, retention, and brand loyalty. Research has shown that 66% of American consumers spend more with brands they’ve had positive experiences with. Another 55% of consumers recommend their favorite brand to others in their network.

All the successful businesses we see around us have one thing in common—they have figured out customer service. Lexus, Amazon, Costco—they all have weaved empathy not just into their customer service teams but across all customer experience interfaces.

Easier said than done; we know. So how does one work their way into their customers’ hearts and bring empathy into company culture? We believe that empathy starts at the top, through example. The empathy we show our associates then sets the tone for the overall workplace environment and this translates into how our associates show empathy to peers and customers alike.

In terms of frequency and volume, agents see most customer-facing interactions. However, they are also the ones sitting the farthest away from the leadership team. Leaders have to ensure that agents are exposed to the right kind of training programs to ensure that they are aligned with the company’s guidelines on establishing empathy towards customers.

#1 Communicate the advantages of empathy

When you’re building a rocket-ship to land on the moon, you need everyone in your mission control room to be on the same page. Everyone’s contribution matters, no matter how small. A miscalculation can reorient your moon-landing into a different part of the cosmos.

Empathy is like that. It should be the common denominator in everyone working for your company, especially your customer service folks. Instead of telling them with words what they are supposed to do, communication with actions shows them why it’s essential to be empathetic.

Share your vision with your contact center employees as vividly as possible. They need to see it just as clearly as you do.

#2 Develop an empathy guideline

Having a standard guideline to stick to will bring everyone on par to practice a certain level of empathy. It also helps your brand become more consistent in delivering amazing customer experience.

Highlighting the right kind of empathetic behavior sets a high standard among your customer service teams and guides them in the right direction. Provide a guideline for success and regularly measure it. Whether that’s an official office policy implemented in your onboarding, or highly skilled Ai that tracks and records speech metrics, it’s all about how your customers feel when they interact with your brand.

Empathy is a voluntary human feeling, and it’s up to your customers to feel it or not. Therefore, your service agents need to think and behave like people, not brand representatives.

#3 Default to empathetic language

Empathetic language is huge because language shapes our reality. If you control the language, you control the brand narrative.

The right combination of words at the right time to the right person is immeasurable and can change a life forever.

“I’m so sorry to hear that.”

“I’m sure we can work that out for you.”

“That’s not a problem at all.”

“Would that be okay with you?”

Meanwhile, the opposite is also true. If you are not aware of certain trigger words and provocative phrases, you can crush someone’s faith in your brand and lose them forever.

No.”

“You can’t do that.”

“That’s not our fault.”

“Our policy doesn’t allow me to do that for you.”

But language is not limited to just spoken words. It’s also important to adjust non-verbal aspects of your communication, such as body language, your brand’s marketing, your social media engagement, and so on.

Embrace positivity and selfless empathy in your workplace culture and encourage your service agents to act like therapists or first responders. Prepare an inventory of positive words, motivational phrases, and coach your contact center agents to internalize them.

Alternatively, take stock of the negative words and phrases that might surface and let it be crystal clear your against using them.

#4 Set the proper standards

You can give the best books to your service agents on human empathy or give them the biggest sermon of its importance, and yet, the message might be lost on them. But show them the right kind of empathetic behavior happening around them, and they will quickly adapt to it.

If a service agent went out of their way to solve a customer’s problem, laud them in full public view. If a happy customer sends in an email praising the behavior of one of your customer service reps, share it with everyone across the company with a ringing endorsement.

Celebrating their victories, when mastered with empathy and grace, will send your entire team positive subliminal messages of respect and appreciation. And like all other human traits, empathy truly rubs off on you.

#5 Offer rewards and incentives

This one is hard to pull off because you don’t want to risk making empathy look like a business metric. It’s especially hard for businesses to exude empathy in customers’ eyes when they think your only reason for existence is to make money.

Map empathy to the business goals that you’re trying to achieve and let your service agents know how it will impact their lives and goals. Remind them that their success is ultimately your success, indirectly boosting sales and increasing retention. In the end, it means more perks and incentives for them too.

Empathy may be hard to quantify, but it’s not invisible. People can see right through you when you’re empathetic versus when you’re putting on a make-believe mask. Your goal is to make sure service agents at your contact center understand the difference and do the right thing.

Jessica Johnson
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