The Customer Service Dynamic Duo
Pow! Kapow! Bam! Smash! Zap! Thwack! Empathy? Willingness to help?
Yep, I inserted empathy and willingness to help into a superhero fight sequence and I’m going to spend the next several paragraphs telling you why they belong there and how you can activate them to unleash your inner customer service superhero.
Empathy is the first customer service superpower. It starts by recognizing the current emotional state of the customer on the other end of the line and coupling that with the problem they are facing. Regardless of whether you are speaking with them or interacting in writing, you can recognize cues and respond accordingly.
If the customer is angry or upset, respond with a tone and statement that you are very sorry for their current situation and you understand why they are upset. If the customer is happy or excited, mirror that tone and be genuinely excited right back at them. Your genuine response validates how they are feeling and instantly builds an important connection between you and the customer.
Willingness To Help
Willingness to help is the second customer service superpower. Once you’ve made that emotional connection and validated how they are feeling, the next step is to communicate that you are here to help. When I say “here to help,” I don’t mean answer their questions as quickly as possible. What I mean is more like:
I’m going to expend every resource possible to fix this issue or alleviate this frustration for you or answer your question accurately. I won’t relinquish ownership of this interaction until this is no longer a problem for you. If for some reason I have to escalate or transfer this to someone else, I’m going to ensure that the next person has everything they need to full ownership of the resolution.
Regardless of the customer’s emotional state, they crave assurance that someone is on their side, going to bat for them, as they try to find a solution.
As a customer service expert for your product or service, the temptation is to forget about empathy and willingness to help, and instead use your other superpowers to resolve the issue. Another temptation is to do only one of the first two or do them out of order.
The essential thing to remember about this dynamic duo is that they MUST be done in order – on EVERY interaction with customers – BEFORE using any other powers are used.
Empathy. Willingness to help. Solve the problem. In. That. Order.
While these superpowers come naturally for some, many others will have to cultivate and practice. But the good news is that these are skills that can be learned and developed. Let’s try a scenario on for size.
The Late Order
Agent Bill: Hello! Thank you for calling ACME Inc. This is Bill. How can I help you today?
Customer: Hi Bill. My order is two hours late. I was told it was going to be here by now and it’s not and I’m late for work because of it.
Agent Bill: I am sorry to hear that the order is late. I can definitely understand how this would be frustrating for you— especially since it made you late for work. I want you to know that I am here to help and I’m going to work with you until we get this resolved. Can I get your order number?
Customer: Thanks Bill. My order number is 123456.
Agent Bill: Thank you. Give me a moment while I look that up and figure out where your order currently is so I can work to make this right for you.
Do you see the empathy and willingness to help statements in that interaction? Let’s recap for a moment.
Empathy: I am sorry to hear that the order is late. I can definitely understand how this would be frustrating for you— especially since it made you late for work.
Not only did Bill acknowledge that the order was late, but he also acknowledged that it made the customer late and related to the frustration the customer felt.
WIllingness To Help: I want you to know that I am here to help and I’m going to work with you until we get this resolved.
Once Bill related to the customer, he assured the customers that he was there to help and would take full ownership of the resolution.
This customer service dynamic duo is a powerful and essential superpower for any customer service superhero wanting to rescue customers from the frustrations and problems that they face.
In a perfect world, they would never have to call customer service in the first place. I guess a perfect world would also have perfect customers. We don’t live in a perfect world and there are no perfect customers— therefore we will always need customer service superheroes.
Also, while I didn’t quote the book directly, I think it only makes sense to give Be Your Customer’s Hero by Adam Toporek a shout out. It’s full of fantastic tips and techniques to help you truly become a customer service superhero.
Head of Quality
Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.