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Training for Customer Service Empathy: How to Bring Its Power to Your Organization

Micah Soloman for Forbes

July 9, 2021

Summary of the Article

Customer service-specific empathy is a powerful tool for any customer-facing company. While empathy is often thought of as a personality trait, it is also a skill that can be learned using what psychologists call “situational empathy.”

Training employees in this simpler and just as effective form of empathy can go a long way for both a company and its customers. According to Micah Soloman of Forbes, there are three points you’ll want to get across when teaching employees about situational empathy:

Take cues from customers but focus especially on those which have meaning to them. For example, a Zappos team member took a call from a customer who was struggling to find comfortable, dressy shoes for her narrow feet. The team member commiserated with the customer about the difficulties of having narrow feet and, while on the call, found a dressy and pain-free solution for the customer.

Be wary of the “empathy gap” when employees are serving customers with very different lifestyles than their own. There is often a sizeable difference between an employee’s and a customer’s lifestyle when serving high net worth individuals. Ross Buchmueller, CEO of the PURE Insurance, once overheard an employee at a different company advising a high net worth client that they’d never recommend taking a $10,000 deductible, because the employee would never be able to pay that much himself. While the comment was valid for the employee, it likely was not accurate for the client who could easily self-insure for that amount.

Know how to translate empathy into action. An employee at the Hyatt House turned empathy into action when a guest who had just sold her home of 40 years checked in with her dog. To help the two keep some sense of normalcy during their stay, the employee tossed the dog the newspaper each morning to carry back to its owner’s room—a new form of a daily ritual from their old home.

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Many PURE employees are trained in empathy as part of the onboarding process when joining the company, especially those who work directly with members every day such as PURE Member Advocates® and Risk Managers.