The Third of the 5 Principles is the principle of customer empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s position, to imagine what they’re going through, to try to feel what they’re feeling. Of course, there are times where you simply can’t put yourself in the other person’s position and, contrary to what you may have heard, you don’t want to say things like “I know what you’re going through.” or “I know how you feel.”, because you probably don’t.
There are certainly exceptions and if you really do know how the other person feels then sure, maybe, but let me give you an example. Now how many people in the room have every been pregnant, show of hands? While you were pregnant, how would you have reacted if I would have said I know how you feel? Well, I’m from Missouri and in Missouri we have a saying, something about whomping them upside the head, and you might whomp me upside my head, right, and understandably so.
How to Show Customer Empathy When You Can’t Relate
Empathy is not about saying that you know how the other person feels but it’s about imagining what the other person is going through and thinking about how you would feel if you were in their shoes. Let me give you an example of how you can deal with empathy when you can’t relate to what the other person is talking about. My office is in my house and one day I’d been working on setting up a site-to-site IPsec VPN between two disparate devices and I couldn’t get the ping to go through, I couldn’t get them to handshake, it just wasn’t going to work, and I was getting really, really frustrated.
Finally I got it to work, I got the two devices to handshake, I got the ping to go through and it was great and I went running upstairs to tell Janet, my wife. Janet is a yoga instructor and a ceramic artist and she doesn’t give a rip about IPsec VPNs, doesn’t even know what they are and doesn’t want to know what they are, but here’s what she said. When I went running up there and told her, she said, and I quote verbatim, she said, “Sweetie that’s great, good job.”
I felt so good because I knew that she cared about me and that’s really the point. We care about our end users and there will be times where you can’t relate to what caused their emotion but you can relate to the emotion. She was relating to my enthusiasm and my excitement, not the IPsec VPN, she was just simply relating to the excitement. When you can’t relate to what’s going on with the other person, you relate to the emotion and that’s one of the ways that you can show empathy.
Customer Empathy Words and Phrases
There are some words and phrases that you can use. For instance, you can say, “I’m here to help, what can I do to make things better?” to try to understand what they’re going through. To recognize that maybe you can’t relate to that administrative assistant whose system just crashed right as a big report was due but you can think back to when you were working on a configuration file and maybe it was a long access list or something like that and suddenly your computer blue screened right in the middle of it. You can relate to your frustration and that’s what you do, you relate to the emotions even when you can’t relate to what caused it.
When you can’t relate to the other person’s experience, relate to their emotion. Don’t judge it or try to evaluate it. Simply relate to it, remembering how you felt in the past when you were angry, frustrated, excited, jealous, or proud.
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