empathy

Never Before… - 8/4/20


The importance of customer service is at the forefront again in our economy.  We noticed this clearly in the early 2000s when the country’s economy struggled, and we noticed it again during the Great Recession several years later.  Today, with yet another set of unexpected and extreme economic challenges, Read more

Effectively Teach the Customer - 7/28/20


The 1985 Harris and Rosenthal research project conveyed what really improves student learning based on the interaction with the teacher.  The top two factors that teachers used to increase learning were (1) The duration of the interaction with the student and (2) The encouragement of the student.  In 3rd Read more

Meet on Equal and Even Ground - 7/21/20


“To be of most service to my brother, I must meet him on the most equal and even ground.”  Henry David Thoreau wrote this in 1841, and it applies almost 180 years later in customer service. We often talk about empathy, and empathy relates to an employee having an understanding Read more

When Customers are…Jerks - 7/14/20


Some people are a little extra…uh…difficult to deal with these days. Customers may have concerns or complaints – many of which are justified. But some customers act like…well…jerks. They’re not kind or understanding or have any idea how poorly they treat others. They’re obnoxious and yet, we still have Read more

Customers Appreciate Your Kindness - 7/7/20


The 3rd grade teacher had a phrase she used with her students. She wanted them to be “kind-hearted.” It was a phrase she used over and over again; no matter what she taught, this was an overriding emphasis on how she would communicate with students and how she expected Read more

6 Common Sense Responses to Customer Service Encounters - 6/30/20


I’ve run into this personally and professionally, and it drives me batty! Sometimes there’s a lack of common sense in the customer service provided by companies. And often that lack of common sense is due to the preference of a business to provide service in a certain method, to Read more

Caring for Co-workers through COVID - 6/23/20


A recent Buffer.com study asked employees who are working remotely due to COVID-19, what was their greatest struggle. While there were many different responses, the Top 2 totaled 40% of the struggles identified - Loneliness and Collaboration/Effective Communication. When you hear something like this - that individuals working remotely are Read more

React, Reflect, Respond - 6/16/20


Sometimes you can’t help it. You gasp. You get upset. You get angry. You have this look of shock on your face. You say something defensive. You react. I love people who are in customer service roles. These are the folks that people say things to in the business world Read more

Serving the Technology-challenged Customer - 6/9/20


The IT helpdesk representative was on a call with a customer, and in trying to troubleshoot an issue, the employee said, “Let’s start by opening Windows.” The customer said “OK,” and there were 2 minutes of silence. The employee twice asked, “Are you still there?” with no response. Finally, Read more

Address the 4 P’s for a Customer-friendly COVID-19 Walk-in Experience


This is not about what is medically most effective – please see the CDC for those guidelines.  This is about how to help your customers have a great experience as an onsite visitor at your facility or storefront.  For a comprehensive approach to a customer-friendly COVID-19 experience, address the Read more

Meet on Equal and Even Ground – 7/21/20

Posted on in Customer Service Tip of the Week Please leave a comment

“To be of most service to my brother, I must meet him on the most equal and even ground.”  Henry David Thoreau wrote this in 1841, and it applies almost 180 years later in customer service.

We often talk about empathy, and empathy relates to an employee having an understanding of the customer – where they’re at and what their situation is at that time.  Thoreau is referencing the same thing.  For us to be of service to others, we need to try to get on equal ground, even ground.

Where is this other person at this moment?  Is the customer in an emotional state?  Are they upset or angry or anxious?  What did they do to get to this point where they are in front of us or on the phone with us or sending us the e-mail or text?  The answers to these questions provide the “ground.”  We create a common understanding of their current footing and how they got to this place.

But for us to best serve, we must also be equal.  How can we turn that understanding of their ground into creating a position of equality?  We have to think about how we’re speaking to that person.  We have to think about the words that we use based on their situation.  We have to consider how well we listen and how well we portray that we’re listening.  We have to use some of their words when responding in dialogue to them.  We need to reflect their tone or at least a slightly softer tone when they are loud.

To be of best service to someone, understand where they are and how they got there, then consciously try to reflect them.

To best serve others, meet on equal and even ground.

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Hearing is Believing – 12/10/19

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“I just want to be heard.”

When I work with clients whose customers are the community, this is a phrase I’ve heard far too often from residents.  For retail businesses and other industries where there are many choices, often customers will take their business elsewhere instead of complaining.  But with government services, there’s often only one place to go for a particular service – the government.

Residents understand that when there are issues, a local municipality won’t be able to offer a gift card or a 10% discount on the next purchase.  Residents understand that a complaint won’t result in some compensation or possibly even a fix.  So, what do residents want?  Many just want to be heard.

Usually when a resident is venting to me about a government client, when they say that they want to be heard, they’re typically referring to two things:  The attitude and the action.  A listening attitude is conveyed when the employee is focused on them, the employee is patient about the issue, doesn’t interrupt, and is empathetic and understanding about the situation.  Residents want to know you understand what’s unique about them, possibly by stating the situation back to them.  And they want the body language and the tone to reflect that listening orientation.

But being heard also can imply action.  Maybe the employee said all the right things in the right way to the customer, but if the employee does nothing with the information, often residents interpret that inaction as not being heard.

Now, taking action doesn’t necessarily mean resolving the issue.  But at least investigate it further.  Ask a co-worker for advice.  Suggest an alternative solution.  Let them know you’ll share the concern with leaders so that similar situations don’t happen to others.  Tell them what they could do in the future so that the situation won’t arise again.  And if you did something for them, tell them that you did it.  They won’t know you took action until you tell them you did so.

Many complaining customers just want to be heard, and not until they feel that they have been heard do they believe that you care.

Convey you care by conveying you heard them with your attitude and action.

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Between Texting and Thoreau – 9/17/19

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The more people that enter the business world having grown up texting, the more the quality of business communications drops. A typical text between friends is rarely what anybody in business would call a professionally-written document. There’s nothing wrong with that, because texting is typically informal dialogue between friends. However, when something is put in writing in an e-mail, it needs to be considered a professional business document.

Now let’s not go overboard and think that e-mails need to be the work of a poet. This should not be Henry David Thoreau waxing poetic about Walden Pond. There is a middle ground, however, between texting and Thoreau. When composing a professional business message in the world of customer service, use these guidelines.

Personalize – Use the other person’s name, and use your name as well. Have enough informality so that they feel like you were talking to them individually and addressing their situation more personally. Use the names to establish a little bit of rapport in the sense that you are viewing them as unique.

Empathize – We’ve often said that emotions and e-mails don’t mix well, so to do your best to try to convey your understanding, at least use a little bit of empathetic wording. Use the word understand, use the word unfortunately when you have to give bad news, use the phrase I could only imagine… when addressing their frustrations.

Synthesize – This is where avoiding Thoreau is a really good thing. In e-mails, people want the message quickly; they don’t want to feel they’re reading a book. In 1 minute, can you tell them the main point that you’re making, convey next steps, share timeframes, and note who’s doing what?

In order to communicate effectively and in a professional manner via e-mail, find a happy medium between texting and Thoreau.

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