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

Be Understanding if You Don’t Understand – 7/21/15 TOW

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


Why is this person so wigged out? This customer won’t make eye contact with me – weird. I really have no idea why they’re asking me that question. Of all the things to complain about, they chose THAT?

People are different. Some people fly off the handle when they’re put on hold for even ten seconds while others patiently wait 15-20 minutes as long as there’s nice music. I conducted training for a hospital once, where – at the break – two things happened; one person complained that the room was too hot, and another person went to their office to get a sweater because the room was too cold.

I don’t claim to understand everyone; what I think is irrational, unprofessional, or rude may be deemed appropriate behavior by others. What I consider to be a minor issue is a federal offense to others.

The lens through which I see the world is not the same as everyone else. And while the world’s a more interesting place because of that, those varied lenses can make delivering great customer service that much more difficult.

So even though we should “seek to understand,” sometimes we just can’t. In those cases, still be understanding of that human being on the phone, behind the e-mail, or facing you at that moment. Even if the complaint, the issue, the reaction, their body language or tone is so foreign to you that you can’t understand it or why it’s happening, still try to understand it’s a human being who’s being human.

This is why empathy is so important. You don’t have to “feel their pain” to convey you care about them as a person. You don’t have to understand WHY they’re frustrated to understand THAT they’re frustrated.

When you don’t understand, it’s okay. Know that despite all you don’t understand coming from that individual, sometimes the best thing is just to be understanding.

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Know the Person’s Story – 6/23/15 TOW

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


The person standing in front of you – that customer – has an issue. They were overcharged, received a past due penalty because they didn’t get it rectified in time, and want it all corrected with the penalty waived.

You’ve dealt with a similar issue 100 times, so you know the process, but do you know the person?

Let’s see…

Prior to standing in front of you, that customer waited 8 minutes in line. Prior to that, they rode a cramped (and somewhat smelly) elevator to your floor. Before that, they waited 3 minutes for an elevator.

Prior to finding the elevator, they walked/jogged in a driving rain from the back section of the parking lot to the building. Prior to that, they drove past your building because of poor signage and had to go around the block again to get back to the entrance. Before that, they drove 25 minutes to get to your offices.

Three days prior to that, they called your organization’s general number, waited on hold for 3 minutes, and then were told they’d have to come downtown with proof of the overbill to get the issue rectified. Prior to that, they tried to find out how to fix it by going to your website, but they spent more than 15 minutes online, including an attempted live chat, and couldn’t get an answer.

Two days before that, they got in an argument with their spouse who saw the past due notice and saw how much he THOUGHT she paid for the service before realizing it was overcharged.

Two weeks prior to that, the customer left a voice mail for an employee that was never returned. A week prior to that, the customer received the initial invoice.

Let’s revisit where we’re at right now. They’re standing in front of you with an issue you’ve addressed 100 times. The transaction should take 3 minutes.

You now know the full story. What are you going to do differently?

Know the story of the person behind the problem.

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Compliment the Customer – 4/21/15 TOW

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


Bob’s home phone (the landline) was not working, and he had called the phone company (using his cell phone) to get it addressed; it worked for an hour and then stopped working again. Bob called the phone company again two days later and noted that the problem had reappeared. The automated system walked him through some questions and remotely rebooted the “gateway,” but the problem persisted. So he called back a third time to talk to a customer service representative. And while there was no resolution, the representative – Vernon – scheduled a service appointment for a technician.

Twice near the end of the call, Vernon told the customer “you’re very nice” (in a platonic, very appreciative tone). He truly appreciated Bob not getting upset; he appreciated Bob working with him on different options to resolve the issue.

This was not a scripted “Thank you for calling” or “I appreciate your business.” This was a sincere compliment to the customer.

Why did the representative provide this compliment? Because if you work in the world of customer service, you know what it’s like to deal with the angry, rude, and unrealistic customers. You know what it’s like to suffer the slings and arrows for the errors of others.

So you also know what it feels like to run across someone who’s not like that at all. You appreciate those customers that are kind, despite their frustration. You appreciate those who are patient even when having an issue. You enjoy the nice person, the empathetic client, the one who asks about you and compliments you.

You appreciate them and those qualities they offer when they could – instead – be negative.

In customer service, you’re often trying to make the experience special for the customer.

Compliment the customer when they make an encounter special for you.

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