How to Teach Customer Service Empathy to Your Agent Team

July 10, 2018

We’ve all been there – waiting on a customer service line after having been passed around several people, still desperately needing your problem to be sorted out. In such a situation, the least you expect is some empathy when you finally get through to someone who can help…

In the call center industry, empathy is the soft skill that stands out from all others. It is, in fact, an absolute must-have skill for any call center star.

In terms of customer service, empathy improves individual call quality as well as overall customer experience. By demonstrating empathy, agents can calm down angry customers more easily, and resolve issues to everyone’s mutual satisfaction. And having a reputation for empathy enhances your call center’s reputation in general, especially in today’s connected world, where stories of positive customer service stories often go viral online and can make all the difference.  

In this article, we’ll outline some techniques for creating empathy at your call center. Read on, and find out how to make sure your team is putting your customers first.

Start with yourself

When it comes to improving customer service empathy at a call center, always start by assessing the current level of empathy in your team. And as their manager, you, of course, are also an essential part of the team. So start by asking yourself the following question: Am I showing my agents enough support?

Rule number one: if you want to create a culture of empathy at your call center, then you too have to show empathy towards your team. Don’t assume that you know everything that your agents are thinking and feeling – you probably don’t.

Rule number two: make sure to listen to them and find out more about them. Ask them questions about their hobbies, their challenges and their aspirations. Furthermore, pay attention to what they do, and make sure to give them genuine recognition when they get things right.

Forget about empty phrases – instead, act

Increasing empathy is more than just encouraging your call center agents to adopt “we apologize for the inconvenience”-type phrases. Empathy is more than just words, and only works if it’s genuinely offered.

So, instead of just letting your call center agents use standard phrases, try and make empathy part of your call center’s culture. Encouraging your agents to put themselves in customers’ shoes is one great way of conveying meaningful empathy.  For instance, if an angry customer calls your customer service line, it’s a great first step if your agents start by reassuring the customer that they know what they’re going through.

Another way of showing empathy to a customer is to show a willingness to act immediately and make commitments to them. Recognizing the urgency of the customer’s issue, and successfully communicating this urgency to them, will make customers feel that the company is really putting them first.

Empathy has to be inspired

Is it possible to train call center agents to become more empathetic? As mentioned above, forced empathy will probably not work, as your customers will sense that it’s not being honestly given.

So, instead of paying for expensive empathy training sessions, why not inspire your agent team from the top down?  When agents see you handle an escalated call, turning an angry customer into a happy customer by showing empathy towards them, they too will want to act just like you.

By showing them how empathy helps you deal with problematic customers, you’ll encourage them to handle such situations using the same approach. After all, no one likes to have to deal with an angry customer.

Reward customer service empathy

No two call center agents are the same. Always bear in mind that your team is made up of individuals, so it’s unlikely that each of them will naturally demonstrate the same level of empathy to your customers.

However, if you want customer service empathy to grow throughout your call center team, then make sure to reward those who have both successfully mastered it and regularly demonstrate it towards your customers.

You could, say, introduce an “agent of the month” award, and praise the winner for the empathy they use to provide help to customers. Bonuses and incentives can also be used as a reward for agents’ outstanding and empathetic performance. Positive feedback fuels agents’ motivation, while financial compensation helps make agents feel that their hard work is generating profit for the organization.

Turing these kinds of activities into regular practice will make all the difference, and you’ll soon see that all your agents will want to be part of the game.

Utilize technology

As with almost everything else, technology can also be invaluable here. If you want your call center agents to handle your customers with empathy, then you better empower them with the right tools.

Remember, for example, that customers easily lose their temper when they have to repeat the same information over and over again. But with call center software that allows your agents to immediately look up any customer information they need during a call, this never has to be the case.

Furthermore, one of the most important goals for customer service teams today is to make customer experience as personal as possible. The use of data analytics in call center software can definitely make things easier (for more info, check out our previous article on data analytics).

In fact, comprehensive analysis of customer data is the first step to understanding your customers. Data analytics will allow you to better understand your customers’ behaviors and needs, and thus make your customer service more personalized. For instance, by identifying which questions your customers commonly ask, your agents can better prepare for customer calls, and thus resolve upcoming issues more easily.

Sum up

Customer service empathy cannot be created solely by training. Instead, it should be demonstrated from the top down, and rewarded through recognition. And don’t forget to utilize comprehensive tools that support it. Bear these points in mind, and you will definitely be on the right path.

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