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Customer experience pros: Crank up the empathy! It’s one thing customers need more than ever from you now.

About 75% of customers said they believe a company’s customer service should be more empathetic and responsive as a result of the pandemic, according to the Hiver study, “Customer Support Through the Eyes of Consumer in 2020.

“What qualifies as great customer service is changing, and changing fast,” says Niraj Ranjan, CEO and Co-founder of Hiver. “A few years back, you could make customers feel taken care of by sending automated replies and by convincingly stating that you are doing your best. That does not fly anymore, as customers are more educated and better connected with each other. Throw a pandemic in the mix, and you have very high customer service expectations.”

What else do they want most now? They want their issues resolved quicker. And they want them resolved in their channels of choice.

Here’s a closer look at customers’ three most important wants.

How to be more empathetic

More than 25% of customers want front-line customer experience pros to be more responsive. About 20% of customers want more empathy. And 30% want both – extra responsiveness and empathy!

Here are three ways to build more empathy in pandemic-era service:

  • Make customers feel like their feelings are right. You don’t have to agree with them, but you want to let them know they’re justified in feeling frustrated, upset, overwhelmed, etc. Just say, “I can see how that can be (frustrating, upsetting, overwhelming …).”
  • Recognise difficulties. No one has escaped some pain or unsettling feelings from the pandemic. Don’t pretend it’s not there. Agree with customers that it’s been a tough year, unprecedented times, a difficult situation or whatever they admit.
  • Move along. Of course, you’ll still need to resolve issues. So use a segue to solutions that makes them feel better. Say, “I’m the person who can take care of this,” or “Let’s get this taken care of right away."

How to resolve issues quicker

While most customers say they’re usually pleased with service, they still would like resolutions to happen faster.

How do we know that? Nearly 40% said they want a timely resolution, meaning they want it resolved in their timeframe. About 30% want to deal with knowledgeable customer experience professionals. And almost 25% don’t have the patience for repeating their concerns, the Hiver report found.

Fixes to those three issues:

  • Ask about the timeframe. Most service pros know how long an answer or solution will take. But customers don’t unless you tell them and establish the expectation. Tell customers when they can expect a resolution, ask if that works for them, and if not, work to find the right timing.
  • Amp up training. Try to send front-line service pros – especially if they work remotely – daily, bullet-pointed info on any changes that affect customers. Include things such as changes or glitches in policies, timelines, products, service and solutions.
  • Encourage better note-taking and passing off. When you have to move customers along to a different person to help, strive for live hand-offs, when the original support person introduces the customer to the next. If that’s not possible, train employees to keep clear notes on the issue, request and expectations, so the next person to help can do so without repeating questions.

Be where customers are

Despite popular belief, customers across generations – from Gen Z to Baby Boomers – have similar preference when getting help. And their first preferences is email.

The only difference is younger generations prefer chat and social media as their second preference, while older generations prefer the phone as their second preference.

Bottom line: You want to continue to support customers where they are – online, over the phone and via email, putting the bulk of your training and resources into email support. That’s where customers can get detailed answers they can access at their convenience.


References: Niraj Ranjan, Customer Experience Insight, Hiver


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