We first wrote a Tip of the Week on empathy back in 2008. It was the most important customer service skill then, and it’s the most important customer service skill now. And as we’ve noted in society, empathy is becoming a word that is used more often in more aspects of life. The word is important, but the application of that word in customer service is even more important in what you and I do every day.
We’ve often said that somebody who is great in customer service is great at asking questions. But an incredibly important skill to have and utilize in order to ask the right questions in the right manner is the ability to be empathetic.
To meet a need right the first time, you have to know the need. To resolve a problem – permanently – you have to be able to get to the root cause. To develop a relationship with someone, you have to get to know them individually. To retain business, you have to know why they’d stay, and why they’d leave. To improve a process, you have to understand the process. And to grow relationships with your clients, you have to get to know their goals and aspirations.
To know a need, to get to the root cause, to know someone individually, to know why the customer would leave you, to understand a process, and to know your customer’s goals and aspirations, you usually have to ask: “What are you hoping to accomplish?” “Why did that happen?” “What brought you here today?” “Why did you choose us?” “Can you tell me what step happens next?” “Where would you like to be a year from now?”
Being empathetic means you care enough to understand the customer and what’s unique about them and their situation. Being empathetic means you care enough to ask a question in order to get the answer. Being empathetic means that you’re asking the questions in such a way as to get a response from somebody who believes you care enough to be inquisitive, and you will act on their response.
If you want to build your customer service skill set, show your empathy by being inquisitive. Show your empathy by asking questions in a manner that conveys you care.
Share your empathy by showing your curiosity about the other person.