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As an industry and a discipline, customer success managers are getting better at delivering a higher percentage of positive customer experiences. But mistakes happen, and it's essential to have a contingency plan for when they do. And, one of the best ways to ensure ourselves and our teams are ready to respond to challenging situations is to have the proper attitudes.
Even an attitude of empathy; by understanding each customer's unique problems and addressing them from an emotional perspective, companies can craft solid relationships and provide exceptional service that stands out. In this blog post, we'll discuss how empathy can help businesses bridge the gap between customer satisfaction and meaningful engagement, plus tips to incorporate it into your strategy.
Customers want to feel heard, understood, and supported - and empathy helps customer service teams meet those needs. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person - the capacity to place oneself in another's position.
"When I get ready to talk to people, I spend two thirds of the time thinking what they want to hear and one third thinking about what I want to say." -Abraham Lincoln
CMS teams show empathy when they sympathize or demonstrate understanding of a client's situation immediately after expressing their concern. Sometimes, this means apologizing.
Making an apology to customers after things go wrong is positively related to satisfaction with restoring the customer relationship. In addition, when a CSM apologizes to a customer for themselves or on behalf of the company or another department, they convey politeness, civility, concern, effort, and compassion – all of which go a long way.
Apologizing also has practical benefits beyond just showing empathy. For example, it can help defuse negative emotions and reduce customer stress levels; acknowledging mistakes encourages customers to provide constructive feedback; it opens up opportunities for problem-solving; it increases customer loyalty by showing appreciation for their patience; and most importantly, apologies help build strong relationships between customer service teams and their customers.
One of the best ways to develop empathy is to practice active listening. Active listening involves not just hearing what your customer is saying but also understanding the emotions behind their words and seeking to understand their communication style. Identify how they feel, then use reflective statements or questions to show them that you understand. Ask open-ended questions that encourage deeper conversation, such as "How long have you been dealing with this issue?" or "What would be the ideal resolution?". These tactics will help build rapport and trust between customer service reps and their customers.
Here are some other activities customer success teams can do to practice empathy:
Practicing empathy puts us in the proper headspace to learn from our customers. From our customers, we learn the drivers of our business success, find growth opportunities, and detect market changes.
"When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That's when you can get more creative in solving problems." - Stephen Covey
When things go wrong, how do your CSMs handle customer interactions? Do you have a process in place so your customer success team can work quickly and effectively to restore customer relationships – and maybe even improve the relationship in the process?