It was 10.00 pm. Vineet, who works in the web sales team for ABC Insurance company, was browsing through his Twitter feed when he chanced upon a Tweet from a customer – Just 5 hours to go for an international flight and the agent forgot to get #travel insurance done. Freaking out! Vineet immediately tweeted back, informing the customer that he is from ABC Insurance company and that he would like to help. He also asked the customer to DM her details. The customer responded with a phone number and Vineet called her back.
On the call Vineet noticed that the customer was panicking, he could also hear two children crying in the background. On inquiring about the situation, the customer pointed out that her youngest daughter was sick and to add to the chaos, her husband had to step out to get a new suitcase as they accidentally broke the handle of theirs. To top it all off, they realized the agent had not got a travel insurance done.
Vineet knew that getting the insurance document at that hour was going to be difficult, but it was something he could manage. However, he sensed that the customer was in a panic mode and he needed to be sure that she had all the required documents available. So he calmly asked her if she had their passports and the tickets handy or if he should call back. He visualized how difficult it might be to hold a wailing baby while gathering the passports and other documents, while another child is clinging on to you and the floor is strewn with clothes that came out of the broken suitcase. He adjusted his tone accordingly and ensured that the customer felt at ease providing all the necessary details. He patiently noted everything down. He then informed the customer what he was going to do next, what she should expect and in how much time. He also confirmed with the customer if she understood that it was going to be difficult, but that he was going to try his best and either way promised to update her within the next 20 minutes.
Fast forward 3 days later, the customer Tweeted a family picture from Greece – Thank you so much to @ABCInsurance and specially @Vineet for saving the day and our vacation. Love from Athens!
What is Empathy
“Empathy is feeling with people” (Dr. Brené Brown). It is the ability to visualize the world from a customer’s perspective. It is the ability to walk in their shoes and feel how uncomfortable a situation they might be in. Customers want to know that you feel their pain, understand their situation and are willing to listen. Empathy establishes a connection and that fuels trust. We break down Empathy into the following four behaviours:
- Sensing: Asking questions to understand the issue, being open to non-verbal queues, and listening
- Visualizing: Imagining the world from the customer’s perspective
- Confirming – Ensuring both the customer and you see the problem the same way
- Adjusting – Modifying your tone to match the emotional state of the customer
Great customer experience begins with these four simple behaviours. Empathy is important not only when there are problems, but, also in user research and user experience design to identify the real needs of the customer.
Watch Brené Brown on Empathy
What Research Says
There is tons of research that shows the link between Empathy and customer service. A few are listed below:
- On the role of empathy in customer-employee interactions. Wieseke, Jan; Geigenmüller, Anja; Kraus, Florian.
- Effect of employee empathy on customer satisfaction and loyalty during employee–customer interactions: The mediating role of customer affective commitment and perceived service quality. Waseem Bahadur, Saira Aziz and Salman Zulfiqar
- The Empathy Engine® Turning Customer Service Into a Sustainable Advantage
- Also, read – Empathy May Be Overrated – Try Compassion Instead
What Research Also Says (Can Empathy be bad?)
Of-course, Empathy is not everything. In the next article in this series, we will explore how problem-solving, responsiveness, and generating options is critical to customer service. However, we still strongly believe that Empathy must be the driving force, the core value that marks all customer interactions.