How to bring power to your organization

What is specific customer service empathy and how do you go about training it and deploying its power to help you begin the transformation of your business into a more customer-centric operation?

Let me back down. If you could somehow start from scratch and aim to create the most customer-centric and customer-friendly business, you might try to hire only people who were psychologically constructed from birth to have the personality trait empathy, at least for roles with direct contact with the client.

Because, whatever you’ve been taught, the reality is that there is, unfortunately, a strain of empathy that exists as a more or less enduring personality trait. As with other personality traits that an individual possesses this tension of empathy (what psychologists unsurprisingly call trait-based empathy) is broadly defined for the rest of its life once an individual reaches adulthood, with a few exceptions.

And those exceptions, the ones that can change a person’s trait-based empathy setting from “off” to “on” are not created by anything on the surface that I can pull out of a hat. training for you, I’m afraid. The kind of exceptions that alter a personality trait can be multi-year therapy, a major trauma or personal awakening, or (and I’m not kidding here) a head injury.

But you have a business to run. And I expect that won’t give you time to gently hit your existing employees on the head in the hopes of creating a personality-changing head injury; neither are you going to lay off all of your existing customer-facing staff in the hope of replacing them with a whole new roster of employees perfectly selected to have that personality trait of empathy.

So what to do instead? Train your existing employees in the simplest and equally useful type of empathy: What psychologists call situational empathy and what I think in a customer service context you can quite aptly call customer service specific empathy is the context in which you practice. (I’m a customer service improvement and customer service turnaround consultant.)

Customer service specific empathy can be learned and enhanced from live training or e-learning programs, including those offered by my company. (Online customer service learning may actually have the advantage here over live training, as the ability to include video scenarios is a powerful tool for building specific empathy.)

Whatever type of external training you are considering, or if you want to try it on a do-it-yourself basis, here is an overview of what you want to convey and the limits of empathy training, in an organizational vacuum. . Being aware of both can help you make a meaningful dent in the universe by training and deploying employees with specific customer service empathy:

1. While a technical in the deployment of customer service empathy, it is to capture the clues, what matters here is to capture the clues that really make sense to the client. A favorite example of this (borrowed from my book, Ignore your customers (and they will leave) is from Madison, an experienced and knowledgeable Zappos employee who works over the phone. Let’s listen: A client calls who is at their wit’s end about the challenges of finding a comfortable shoe for an upcoming family wedding.

Madison responds with a lot of empathy and passion, after focusing on the key part of the information shared with her: that her interlocutor has narrow feet, a category that is deemed difficult to fit into. “Honestly, the ‘narrow ones’ are the worst! It’s almost as if the entire industry has conspired against narrow-footed people. My aunt has narrow feet like you, and I swear it seems every other conversation I have with her is about her miseries related to them.

As you can imagine, the two are soon to be besties. And, quickly, Madison’s client regains hope that the next wedding will be more than a party of torture for her feet. Then, browsing together while still on the phone, Madison and the client manage to find a likely new candidate for painless but dressy shoes.

2. Know that there can be a lack of empathy when your employees are serving people. seriously life situations different from theirs. While there is always a certain disconnect between the frame of reference of your employees’ lifestyle and that of your clients, a dramatic divergence occurs when your clients are High net worth individuals (HNWIs). The economic and lifestyle realities of high net worth clients can be light years away from those of your employees, resulting in a lack of empathy and practicality in conversations and service recommendations.

In this sense, Ross Buchmueller, CEO of the PURE Group of Insurance Companies, which serves wealthy owners and families, recalls hearing an employee of a company (not his, by the way) tell a wealthy client that “I” I never recommended anyone take a $ 10,000 deductible because I could never afford to pay that much if something went wrong, ”which, although a blunt comment – and certainly valid in the employee’s worldview – was not necessarily good advice for a client who could easily self-insure for that amount or more, and for whom it could have been a significant saving on premiums and a smart financial decision.

Likewise, as we examine the relatively strong recovery of Covid here in much of the United States, when we serve clients (external or internal) in India, Brazil and elsewhere, their realities may be very different and require a important cropping.

3. Empathy alone may not be enough. Is your organization ready to let empathy translate into action? Here is an example that is small and yet deep. The actions of this empathetic employee did not cost his company any measurable amount of money, but the whole scenario demanded that management be open to the creative deployment of what you might call “empathy in action.” . Is your business ready to follow suit? Otherwise, improving your conversational empathy skills may not be enough:

Out of nowhere, a dog leaps to the reception of the Hyatt House hotel in the suburbs of Virginia, clearly on a mission. The front desk clerk bends down and throws a rolled newspaper into the waiting dog’s mouth. Once this stage of his mission is accomplished, the dog wags his tail and the agent goes back to work processing the papers for the next guest.

“[The dog’s] The owner had just sold her home after 40 years of existence and, like many of our guests at Hyatt House, she is in limbo before moving into her first apartment as an empty nester, ”says Sara Kearney, vice-president. Senior President of Hyatt. . “My colleague at the reception [at this point in the interview I had to confirm that Kearney had said “colleague,” not “collie”] tried to help this guest keep some semblance of her routine from her previous life. So every morning, his dog crosses the hallway to the reception, collects the newspaper as he did when they lived at home and brings him back to the guest room where his master is waiting for him.


Situations like that of this customer, the dislocated dog owner, can weigh heavily on their perception of the goods and services you provide. Fortunately, such situations are also where truly empathetic customer service can shine. But that can’t shine just by training your employees to be empathetic in their conversational responses over the phone or in person. While a comforting ear can often suffice, sometimes empathy needs to be turned into extra action. Is your organization ready to do this? This is a next key question.

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