empathy

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

It’s Decision Time. What are you going to do? - 6/11/19


Serving others is tough. Whether it’s dealing with an irate customer, having to field the same question from the 100th different customer this month, or keeping 10 plates spinning while still smiling in front of the client, it’s hard. You want to do a great job, and you’re constantly put Read more

You Do Know Jack - 6/4/19


Have you ever had a co-worker who causes more problems than they solve? Simple things they do are often, from a procedure standpoint, correct. But the way they handle situations makes them come off as indifferent. Let’s call this co-worker “Jack.” Even though certain actions by Jack may seem innocent Read more

How to Give the Right Kind of “No” - 5/28/19


In a perfect world, you never need to say “No” to the customer. But as we all know, this is not a perfect world. There are a lot of issues in the world, and there are a lot of issues in customer service. Our companies are not perfect, our Read more

Make it Crystal Clear - 5/21/19


Sometimes we communicate so well, and sometimes we don’t communicate as well as we think we do. When you’re trying to set or manage another person’s expectations, what you say may be very clear to you, but the reality is it may not be clear to the other person. Read more

Harvey Wrote the Book on Focus...and Golf - 5/14/19


In Harvey Penick's Little Red Book, the famous golf instructor provides many key tips about golf that just as well could apply to life in general. One such tip is the following: Once you address the golf ball, hitting it has got to be the most important thing in Read more

Stop Rolling Your Eyes - 5/7/19


Most of our customer service tips offer advice and guidance. But advice and guidance is useless if the individual receiving it is not willing to listen, learn the theory behind it, and try to apply what they’ve heard or learned. I’ve personally facilitated hundreds of training sessions with clients over Read more

Should you tell the customer? The Employee’s Dilemma - 4/30/19


Last week we looked at the dilemma that many companies face – When there is an issue that is going to happen, should they tell the customer? This week, let’s address that same question from the employee’s perspective. I personally experience employees struggling with this question when I’m in Read more

Should you tell the customer? The Company’s Dilemma - 4/23/19


I have a lot of clients that struggle with this question, both at a company/strategic level as well as an individual representative level. When there is an issue that is going to happen, should you tell the customer? This week we’re going to address the question at the 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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