Customer Experience News & Trends

5 ways to improve the most powerful tool in the customer experience

Empathy could be the most powerful tool in the customer experience — and possibly the most difficult one to get right. 

Front-line customer service and sales professionals need to be able to recognize and understand customers’ emotions, then respond properly to them.

It’s not an easy task to master. But it’s vital to the customer experience. Empathy helps build rapport and maintain relationships.

Try these five exercises from customer service expert Kelechi Okeke to improve empathy. You can practice them in any conversation — with family, friends and colleagues — to help you get better:

1. Listen with a different attitude

Active listening (and responding) is built on attitude. It’s not just a reaction. It starts with a choice to absorb everything customers say and do.

Listen to what they say and analyze the implications of other people’s emotions. They often share those more with tone and body language than with words.

2. Watch body language

When you’re with people, you have the opportunity to watch their hand gestures and facial expressions to get a better feel for their emotional state. On the phone, tones — from high pitches to solemn silence — express emotions you want to acknowledge.

Watch for these body language moves and tones, plus what they likely mean:

  • Raised eye brows suggest discomfort.
  • Eye contact shows interest — but too much suggests lying.
  • Crossed arms or legs suggest resistance.
  • Voice volume changes suggest interest in the conversation.
  • Mirroring tones suggest the conversation is going well.

3. Be more curious

Curiosity helps people broaden their view and knowledge of the world, and others in it. Starting conversations with, and asking questions of, people outside your social circle helps you get a broader perspective of emotions.

Strike up more conversations (instead of hovering over your smart phone) on your commute, in the grocery story, waiting in the doctor’s office, etc. Learn more about other people and their lives, and your ability to empathize grows.

4. Read and watch more fiction

When you read books or watch movies, do more than enjoy the story. Study the people. Pay attention to the characters and how they show fear, anxiety, sadness and joy.

Then pay attention to how others respond to their emotions:

  • Is it appropriate?
  • Could they have done better?
  • What would you do in that situation?

5. Experience service

Pay more attention to yourself when you’re a customer. Make some (legitimate) complaint calls or in-person returns. Gauge your emotions.

  • How do you feel when things don’t go well?
  • How do you feel when they do go well?
  • What was your strongest emotion, and how did you express it?
  • How did the employee react?
  • If you were the employee, what would you have done differently?

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