Do your employees understand the importance of expressing empathy to your customers when required?
My wife and I just returned from a speaking trip in another country. The trip turned into an epic adventure involving delayed flights, missed connections, missing baggage, and yes, more delayed flights. Some of it was weather related, some issues were mechanical, sometimes we were waiting for the “paperwork”. At one point we had a pilot but no plane, then later on we had a plane without a pilot.
As a frequent flyer (owing to my wildly glamorous life as a professional business speaker) I’ve been there before as no doubt many of you have. And yes, some of the issues were beyond the airline’s control. Some were within their control. Regardless, what was 100% under the airline’s control was their level of customer service – in particular the level of empathy their staff conveyed to passengers.
And yet, time and time again, I found little signs of empathy. At one point, while waiting for our lost bags after missing our connection and after being rerouted and having to spend an extra day overnight and delay our arrival by more than 24 hours, rather than receiving any empathy I instead received a lecture from the baggage desk employee about the proper way to file away my baggage tags.
So here’s my question for you: Are your employees trained in the art of expressing empathy to customers when things go off the rails? Are front line employees given the freedom to solve problems as best they can or do you have a “I need to talk my boss” or a “It’s against our policy” mantra that kicks into autopilot anytime something bad happens?
Businesses need to understand that all it often takes to ease a customer’s concerns is a friendly smile, a sympathetic ear, and a sincere expression of empathy. Expressing empathy with a sincerely expressed statement such as, “I’m so sorry for everything you’ve experienced – you must feel very frustrated?”, can diffuse conflicts and prevent a bad situation from escalating to the point where customers lose patient and where you perhaps lose a customer for life.
Michael Kerr, 2016. Michael is an international business speaker and the author of six books, including The Humor Advantage.
“Just wanted to say “WOW!” Our group has had many speakers over the years, but none the likes of Mike Kerr.”
Richard Dansereau, President, NAPA Autopro BDG
“Michael Kerr is one of the best speakers I have seen. I highly recommend him!”
Veronica D. Bouvier, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Aspen Properties Ltd.
“Mike held the full attention of our senior management team for a full FOUR hour
presentation – no small accomplishment!”
Martine Rothblatt, CEO, United Therapeutics