Beyond Empathy Statements

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Answers.com defines an empathy statement as a two part statement constructed by a customer service professional that labels the perceived emotion and communicates their understanding of that emotion to the customer. It serves to clarify and reinforce the feelings that the customer is feeling. In other words, it is not genuine. It is a strategically placed statement that is supposed to alert the customer that the agent clearly heard the emotion and understands said emotion. This is an exhausting proposition for the customer and the colleague.

Moving beyond empathy statements and creating an empathy practice increases the quality of the interaction for the customer and colleague. Less energy is expended when we practice empathy and stay out of judgement. When you choose to develop an empathy practice you will have the energy needed to create an extraordinary career in customer service.

In this video, Brene’ Brown shares the essential attributes for developing an empathy practice:

Her four attributes of empathy are:

  • A willingness to take the perspective of the customer
  • A commitment to stay out of judgement
  • A desire to understand the customer’s feelings
  • The ability to communicate your understanding of the feelings

When I was teaching a Beyond Empathy Statements session recently I overheard a participant report that they were an expert at pretending to care. They further explained that they understood how and where to place a well timed empathy statement. The customer he was referring to had contacted support regarding a defunct electronic device on their yacht. The colleague stated “yeah, I felt really bad they had to drive back to their yacht to turn the device back on.”

While neither one of us is familiar with the luxury of owning a yacht, we can take the customer’s perspective by connecting on a common ground. I challenged him to take the perspective of the customer by recalling a time when his personal possessions might have been at risk due to a lack of security. It is scary and frustrating to have property that we have worked hard for become vulnerable because of faulty security. I asked him to reflect on a day when one more task on his to do list would throw his entire day into a tailspin. When we began to explore the situation by identifying with a similar circumstance in our lives we were able to develop authentic empathy and move into a service oriented frame of mind.

As we began to identify with the customer’s frustration and vulnerability, staying out of judgement naturally occurred, understanding the customer’s feelings became easier and we communicated our understanding through an empathy statement. What made this statement different? Authenticity.

By choosing to practice empathy we change the world one interaction at a time. Bringing peace to the person on the other end of the interaction has the potential to bring calm to an otherwise difficult situation and assures them that they are heard and understood. Take a moment to reflect on the authenticity of your current empathy practice. If it is not authentic spend some time aligning it with the aforementioned four attributes of empathy.

Happy empathizing!

Sheri-Kendall-duPont-Retouch-square-small

Sheri Kendall-duPont
Manager of Colleague &
Leadership Development
FCR

Sheri Kendall-duPont’s passion for creating positive change within organizations led her to FCR. In her current role as the Manager of Colleague and Leadership Development she has developed programs that have inspired those in leadership to create a coaching culture.  She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Northwestern Christian University and a Master’s Degree in Training and Development from Roosevelt University. Her career in education began in 1999 and since then she has developed workplace learning opportunities for non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, government agencies, healthcare organizations and contact centers. Follow Sheri on Twitter and LinkedIn.

1 Comment. Leave new

A Threefold Approach to Empathy Training
05/05/2016 11:28 am

[…] and sincerity has done many agents a disservice. There is a clear need and imperative to move beyond empathy statements and guide our colleagues in developing an empathy […]

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