You’re waiting in line at a clothing store. The only element that stands between you and your receipt is the little old lady in front of you screeching about why she should be allowed to return her year-old moccasins. She claimed she never used them. That she never took strolls around the block in them. Yet they are enfeebled and mangled with deep gnawing marks made most likely by the tiny chihuahua yapping away in her bag. You wait for the woman to finish her tall tale and the cashier to lay into her. Cause, all in all, the cashier is in the right… Right?
You wait for an argument that never comes as the cashier offers the woman a warm smile, tells her that they usually don’t take these types of returns but for her, they’ll make the exception. You watch as the little old lady calms. No longer aggressive and on edge, but now laughing and telling stories of her grandson. She’s now willing to buy something else… maybe a handbag. Maybe even another pair of shoes.
What happened? Why the sudden switch? What took this customer from cranky and mean to suddenly happy and yappy. Is she bipolar? Or maybe it’s the fact that she was shown compassion by the cashier which lead to a positive experience for both of them.
Empathy, that’s what was shown in this situation. The ability to put yourself in one’s shoes and relate. Not everything is so black and white. A customer is not just mad to be mad. They have a story and your job, as a customer service representative, is to learn and understand how they got from point A to point B.
Empathy doesn’t always come naturally to every individual. We can’t all be the cashier in this scenario, however, there are some skills you can learn to cultivate your craft.
Listen To Understand
Everyone loves an attentive listener because everyone wants to be heard. When you are with your customer, make them feel like they are the only one you’ve spoken with the entire day. That they have your full and undivided attention.
To do this, you must become an active listener or if you are communicating through email support, reread the question and then consider the best response.
When it is your time to respond, don’t provide a simple yes or no. Give details, repeat back to them some of the lingo they used. For example, I received an inquiry from a customer having difficulties organizing his contacts. The conversation went something like this:
CUSTOMER – “Hi. Getting frustrated. My trial is about to end and I can’t figure out a way to group my contacts. They are just imported into my Contacts tab and I can’t tell who’s important or not. No grouping = Dealbreaker.”
MY RESPONSE – “Thanks so much for your interest in Nimble. I can definitely help you get your contacts organized! Did you know we have a tagging function? You can add tags to your contacts upon import, this way they are organized right from the get go.
You may also want to review organizing your contacts by custom fields and saved searches.
Now that you know about these functions, check them out. I’ve restarted your Nimble trial! ;)”
Needless to say, this customer was thrilled and what seemed like a deal breaker, became a way for him to get the ball rolling with his Nimble experience.
Walk In Their Shoes
Image how you would feel if your little chihuahua ruined your moccasins and you went back to the store in hopes that the cashier would cut you some slack. It would be embarrassing to have them tell you “No” even if it’s their policy. However, if they told you “Yes”… well, it would brighten your day and quite possibly make you a frequent returning customer.
Put yourself in your customers shoes! Each time a customer approaches you and tells you their story, make believe it’s your own. When my customer told me they were having difficulties organizing their contacts, I imagined what it was like to be new to a system and then I applied my Nimble knowledge to provide the best possible support.
Acknowledge your customer’s feelings and needs. Don’t be super gleeful if your customer is near their breaking point. Rotate your mood by speaking in a softer tone. Or if via email, apologize for the misfortune, whatever it may be. Then make a few suggestions to fix the situation.
There are some situations that simply can’t be fixed. At least in a timely manner. For these circumstances, you might think your customer has reached their boiling point and if this is the case, you want to remain calm and give your customer some options.
Inspiring your customer simply means that you are always offering suggestions and workarounds, especially when they request a feature, your product doesn’t have.
For instance, some of our customers reach their “boiling point” when they learn they cannot integrate their Linkedin with Nimble due to a certain API loss (learn more here).
Instead of growing frustrated with them, we offer workarounds.
“Yes, you may not be able to connect your Linkedin to Nimble as easily as Twitter is integrated. However, did you know our allows you to import contacts directly into Nimble from anywhere you are on the web! This includes Linkedin. Let me show you how it works!”
In most cases, the user doesn’t know this other option exist and they are happy it’s being brought to their attention.
Wow and inspire your customer to stick with you and they’ll be thankful for your effort.
End On A Positive Note
Even if you and your team are still working to resolve an issue, make sure you keep your customer updated so they know they haven’t been forgotten.
“Thanks so much for your patience as we work through this issue. How’s everything else going so far? Need any tips and tricks on how to get started with Nimble? Let us know. We’re here to help.”
When the issue is resolved, share the good news, right away!
Taking the time to understand and care for your customers builds trust. They’ll be proud to use your product and feel confident when addressing you and your company.
Remember, it is important to show empathy even when none is shown in return. Your customer may not always laugh and tell stories of her grandson with you like the little old lady and the cashier. They may end the conversation without so much as a thank you.
Just make sure that you are doing your part to stay positive and if no thank you is extended to you, then thank your customer for their time.
When you use empathy, you are able to put yourself into your customers shoes and in turn, understand your customer on a deeper level. This way, they walk away happy and you walk away with your head still intact! 🙂