empathy

Be Generous to a Fault - 8/20/19


People who think they’re generous to a fault usually think that’s their only fault – American Journalist Sydney Harris. This quote reminds me of someone who views themselves as a giver – someone who is so humble that he likes to humbly tell everyone of the gifts he’s given, good Read more

Don’t Assume because... - 8/13/19


You've probably heard this statement growing up. Your parents said, “Don’t assume, because it makes…you look bad.” Or something like that… Recently my laptop screen died, and since it was an older laptop, I decided to go ahead and buy a new one instead of paying to have the screen Read more

Patience Leads to Positivity - 8/6/19


Thank you for your patience. That’s a statement I enjoy saying…when I am the customer. When I’m trying to learn something and I’m about to go into a process, I want to have a feel for what the whole process involves. Over the years, I’ve gotten tired of feeling like Read more

Back to Reality...for Customer Expectations - 7/30/19


Have you ever walked into a patient registration area of a hospital and seen a sign that said “if you’ve been waiting longer than 15 minutes, please see the receptionist?” Have you ever called a customer service number and been told by a recording that “the average hold time is Read more

For Excellence to Happen, Get Engaged - 7/23/19


The customer was throwing an absolute fit in the lobby. Sitting among several other customers waiting for her number to be called, she was raising her voice and letting out the occasional expletive about the lengthy wait time. An employee sitting behind the counter thought to herself: I’m going Read more

Libby Listened to Serve - 7/16/19


Libby was new to her role with the organization. She had never been a customer service representative in a call center before, but she was hired because of her attitude. She wanted to learn, enjoyed working with people, and could carry on a conversation with a wall. After going through Read more

Chris Got Noticed for All the Right Reasons - 7/9/19


Chris was working through a temporary agency, and he got a job at a warehouse. He was packaging items to be shipped out, and his shift didn't start until 7:30 a.m. Chris always got there a little bit early because of the bus schedule, and he hated just sitting Read more

What Does “No News” Mean? Here’s a Quick Story - 7/2/19


Steven was trying to make the purchase of his new used car official, so he could get license tags for his State. In order for the State to allow him to put the vehicle in his name, he had to submit paperwork to prove that the prior owner (from Read more

Are you the Output or the Input? - 6/25/19


You’re the output and the input. Sorry to put it into such technical/industrial engineering terminology. But in a service system, we all have some role as a part of the process. First, we receive the output. Somebody has a customer that they direct to us, so that handoff is from Read more

Hear Them, and Tell Them What You Heard - 6/18/19


CSS has conducted close to 1000 research projects over the years, many of which were web-based surveys. And oftentimes, in addition to or instead of completing the online survey, respondents e-mail us directly with questions or comments – and we respond personally to every message on behalf of our Read more

The MOST Wonderful Time of the Year? – 12/19/17

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


As the song says, “It’s the MOST wonderful time of the year.” True, and it can also be the most stressful time, and in business and the world of customer service, it can easily be the most HECTIC time of the year.

In healthcare, people are trying to get procedures done before year-end. In retail, many businesses are getting 70%+ of their sales in the last quarter of the year. In sports, the football, hockey, and basketball clubs are still playing games.

So, the customer-facing work is often crazy-busy, but the employees’ lives are also different. They’re shopping, planning to see family and friends, dealing with kids being out of school, trying not to go over personal budgets, and trying to keep a good attitude without burning out on the holiday before it even happens.

This is all to say that a hyper-focus on the customer at this time of year is understandable, but it has to be balanced with a sensitivity to the employees serving those customers.

Staff may want or need flexibility. They may be overwhelmed by the constant pressures and non-stop action of work and home, the lack of sleep, the desire to get things done. They may need an occasional mental break, an empathetic comment from their boss, or the “gift of time.”

This should be the MOST wonderful time of the year, but often that time is so jam-packed that an organization’s greatest asset – its people – aren’t feeling the love and joy.

Find ways to provide flexibility, understanding, and the gift of time to staff.

Find some balance for the good of your team.

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Their Tone is “a Tell” – 4/4/17

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On March 14 we shared a Tip on how to read a customer’s body language, then how to use that reading to refine your response.

You can do the same thing with the other person’s tone of voice. Whether they’re Angry, Afraid/Anxious, or Sad, the emotions can be conveyed differently through the voice. And some of these emotions require you to respond differently.

Those that are angry typically have these characteristics of their tone of voice:

  • Loud voice
  • Emphasizing every syllable (particularly if loud)
  • Emphasizing negative words
  • Rapid speech
  • Interrupting you
  • Potentially high pitch.

 
Those that are afraid, anxious, or sad typically have these characteristics of their tone of voice:

  • Series of pauses…um’s
  • Talking in a monotone voice
  • Wavering tone
  • Breaks in the strength
  • Potentially rapid speech
  • Potentially high pitch.

 
Along with listening to the other person’s words, listen to their sounds. Pay attention to the detail. It will inform your approach – which is different for anger reduction as opposed to reducing anxiety. It will tell you whether to gain control of the conversation through questions, empathy, and apology (for anger) or whether to build credibility by conveying your experience in working through situations like theirs and creating comfort by clearly describing what needs to happen next to resolve the issue (for anxiety or sadness).

The customer’s “Tell” is the voice – not necessarily just the words. And how should you respond with your own voice in these emotional situations? Keep in mind:

  • Lower and Slower – It’s hard for an irate person to continue to yell at someone speaking softly, and a slower pace reduces the energy in the conversation.
  • Inflect for Interest – They want to feel like you care; convey caring by avoiding the monotone; instead, use periodic inflection when engaging.
  • Key Word Emphasis – Highlight with your voice (with pauses or a slightly modified tone) those specific words that convey understanding, empathy, caring, and key next steps.

 
Always listen to the other person’s words, but also listen to the sounds they convey; the sounds often share the emotions that the words can hide.

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Read their Wordless Emotions – 3/14/17

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Consumer research studies have shown that customers who engage employees typically bring 1 of 5 emotions into the conversation: Anger, Fear, Sadness, Contentment, or Happiness.

Let’s focus on the first 3 – the tougher emotions of Anger, Fear, and Sadness. They are very different emotions where – in the first case – the person is angry in general, at something, about something or their situation or an individual.

Fear is often a sense of being worried or panicked about the future, the unknown, the next step.

Sadness often is from a depression or a feeling of helplessness about their situation.

When you’re interacting with others, you deal with them differently based on the emotions they convey. You’ll want to defuse the Angry customers, gain control of the conversations, convey some empathy, possibly apologize, and deliver on a solution. With the Fear and Sadness, you go heavier on the empathy, asking them about themselves, telling them about yourself and your related experience to build their confidence. You’re explicit on what the next steps will be to make the “future” known.

But how do you know what emotion they’re conveying? Well, you can tell often without having to even hear them say a word.

Those that are angry typically have these characteristics of body language:

  • Crossed arms
  • Rolling eyes
  • Rapid movement/gestures
  • Clenched fists
  • Shoulders up
  • Pointing
  • Leaning (too) close in – to your/others’ personal space
  • Furrowed brow.

 
Those that are afraid/sad typically have these characteristics of body language:

  • Little/no eye contact
  • Head shaking while looking at information
  • Fidgeting
  • Sweating
  • Hand over the mouth
  • Blank stares
  • Glassy eyes/tears.

 
Begin reading others through their body language. Before they even say a word, you can gauge their emotions and prepare yourself to respond appropriately.

Read their wordless emotions to respond in the right way.

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