Recent studies have revealed that four out of 10 Australian consumers have either recently walked away from or plan to leave a company’s services soon, while 8 out of 10 have revealed that poor customer service was the key influence on their decision to leave a company, rather than their disappointment with a product.
Likewise, on a global scale, while consumers have often talked about their good customer service experiences, an astounding 95% of customers will talk about their negative customer service experiences. And not only do they do it in person – to their friends, family members, colleagues or acquaintances – but they now have the power to vent on digital avenues like consumer review websites and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
So, with customers yielding more power to communicate their feedback, and with companies struggling to maintain or improve their market share, exceptional customer service – and not just an offering of high quality products – is critical to the success of any business.
At the very heart of customer service is the ability not to just problem solve, but to execute the all-important art of empathy. Quite simply, empathy is the capacity to understand or feel another person's experience or condition from their perspective.
On the surface, empathy is a simple concept – akin to walking in someone else’s shoes – but in reality, it’s a skill that not every human being naturally possesses. It’s also something that, alarmingly, is lacking amongst customer service professionals, and one that customers frequently complain about.
The acclaimed author Maya Angelou once wrote, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Regardless of any immediate outcomes to any problem-solving, how you make your customers feel cannot be underestimated. In fact, how customers feel about your customer service will inform their dominant feelings about your company.
Why is empathy critical to your customer service strategy?
Your customer service representatives are at the frontline of dealing with questions, problems and complaints. When customers get in touch – via face-to-face contact or over the phone – it can be challenging to help them, especially if they are frustrated, angry or emotional.
Truly successful businesses treat the interaction between their customers and their customer service professionals like a relationship. Like in any relationship – a personal or a business one – your team must possess a genuine sense of empathy for any challenge your customer is experiencing. Empathy is one of the most valuable assets your team can possess, and it will ultimately lead to more positive consumer feedback and all-important loyalty.
While some people are naturally more empathetic than others, the great news is that empathy is teachable!
‘Fewer Australians than ever loyal to business according to new research.’
‘2014 Global Customer Service Barometer’