“From an evolutionary perspective, it’s more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust” – Harvard Psychologist, Amy Cuddy

Customer empathy should be embraced for a number of reasons. It’s a way to create happy customers and long-lasting relationships, increase referrals, and receive testimonials and reviews organically. However, it goes much deeper than that.

With customer empathy, you can build a strong reputation for your brand. By strong, we mean one that’s worthy of your customer’s trust and loyalty. 

Right now, a lot of companies are looking to be more empathetic to their customers (if your email inbox is any indication). But it’s one thing to say “we’re in this together” and another thing to actually have customer service that reflects true empathy.

And that’s what this blog is all about. We’ll walk through a few ways to improve your customer interactions. If implemented, they should help your team embrace empathy as a core company value even further.

What is Customer Empathy and Why is it Important?

Empathy is our ability to see the world through other people’s eyes. With empathy, you can picture what someone else feels, step in their shoes and try to experience things as they do. 

By putting aside our own ideas and preconceived notions, and choosing to understand the thoughts and needs of other people, we are able to create a trusting relationship with one another.

Thus, customer empathy is putting all of this into practice with your customers. But why is it so important?

While this shouldn’t be the main reason to embrace it, empathy has a positive impact on your bottom line. It drives customer satisfaction, loyalty and positive customer experiences

And the numbers are there to back it up:

According to Harvard Psychologist Amy Cuddy, warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how people evaluate you. Not competence, as many would presume, which is only really evaluated after trust has been established. 

In fact, marketing failures and backfires happen every day because the people behind the scenes (the idea guys) aren’t being empathetic enough. And when trust is lost, it’s hard to reel people in again and continue an engagement.

The reality is that whatever you are putting out right now needs to convince others that you’re trustworthy, and even more than usual. Of course by you, we mean trust in your employees. People won’t feel empathy from your brand, but from the individual people on the frontline responding via phone, chat, email, social media and any other channels you use.

Even just one bad experience with one of your employees can cause a buyer to go with a competitor. Or entice them to write a negative review about you online. With around 90% of people relying on online reviews during their decision making process, negative reviews have a real impact on your bottom line. 

Most importantly of all though, empathy is your way to let others know how much you care. It’s how we show each other that we are all people trying to help each other out, which is what really matters in the end. 

Six Key Steps for Successful Customer Communication

Here at ShipperHQ, we’ve established over the last 10+ years what it means to us to have great customer communication. From our experience, showing empathy comes down to two things: how you react to and interact with others. These are some of the things to go through to effectively do both. 

Personalizing the Interaction

This one is super simple. If you know the customer’s name, use it. And always refer to them by who they are. While this seems easy enough, it can be difficult to always keep up, especially in chats, on forums or through social media responses. But whatever the channel, it’s good practice to maintain. 

Doing this allows you, and the person you’re speaking with, to be more connected to the conversation. It humanizes the situation, evens out the power dynamic, and makes the customer feel like they aren’t just another anonymous person.

Active Listening

With active listening, you not only hear the words the other person is saying, but the complete message being communicated. Also key to active listening is not making any assumptions or judgements until they finish speaking.

This can be really difficult to do, especially if a customer mentions certain trigger words you’re used to hearing over and over again. The truth though, is that you may not have enough details to answer the question right away. It’s vital to let a customer tell you what you need. Be curious and ask for clarification if necessary before you start giving them solutions. 

Additionally, make sure to validate their point of view once you get the details you need, like “I can totally see how you’d expect that result,” so they know you’re hearing them correctly. 

Words of Urgency

Words of urgency are important because they show that you want to help resolve their problem as quickly as possible, and you think that their problem is as important as they do. It’s not too far to assume that a lot of customers consider their call ‘urgent’. Minutes are money, afterall, especially when uncertainty is involved. 

While this engagement is crucial to build trust, it’s important not to set unrealistic expectations with your words. Don’t make promises that you might not be able to keep like “We’ll know within the hour” or “I’ll get to it ASAP.” This language makes it too easy to overpromise and underdeliver, which can be annoying from a customer’s perspective.

It’s more important to be honest and don’t make commitments on time-frames. Instead, use a phrase like “I appreciate you bringing this to our attention; we will deal with it quickly” to reassure them that you are on it.

Positive & Empowering Language

Using positive and empowering language is essential because it increases the customer’s perspective of helpfulness and how much trust they have in you. While this seems obvious, it’s very easy to skip especially when you’re using a chat system and trying to be succinct or get to the problem right away.

With positive language, you are setting the tone of your conversation, letting them know you’re happy to help and not too busy for them.

It’s also important to make sure you avoid negative statements throughout your discussion (even if what they did was done incorrectly). The way you speak can make all the difference here, since you don’t want to come off as condescending. Instead, try to redirect the conversation by focusing on the solution and not what they should have done instead. 

Keeping it Simple

It’s really easy to start off a conversation using jargon and internal terms you use to describe your product. But the truth is, what you say may not mean much if you’re speaking to a new customer.

The more simple you can keep your explanations, the better off you’re going to be. Don’t put out fluff, and focus on being concise when solving a customer’s problem. There is no need for a long-winded response, just try to be as short as possible so you can both save time.

Being brief also doesn’t have to mean that you have to be rude. Through positive language and active listening, for example, that you can respond to them and not sound like you’re trying to shoo them away. 

And Finally: A Committed Close

The last key step is to have a committed closing statement, one that outlines what you’re going to do next and reinforces your willingness to help them out again. This can be as easy as saying “feel free to reach out if you need anything else.”

What Customer Empathy Does NOT Mean

While you want to be positive, empowering and encouraging, you don’t want to spend all your time with one user. Especially, if the problem is something a customer can self solve using a resource like help documentation. 

The goal is not for you to give away paid support services for free. Instead you should aim to be as efficient as you can in responding and empower them with the tools to solve a problem on their own. As long as you don’t come across as abrupt or negative, it’s good to push things back on a customer whenever you can. This way, you can save time and your customer might be more likely to troubleshoot on their own the next time.

ShipperHQ and Customer Empathy

The reality today is that every message you put out needs to be thought through and genuine. You need to be able to meet customers where they are and look at the world from their perspective. If you have genuine care and concern for your customers, it will come through to them.

That’s how we’ve tried to approach our business from day one, and even more so now that everything has changed. Our desire is to help our customers navigate changing policies and a tough retail landscape. That’s why early on we reached out to our customers about getting store pickup setup online as social distancing policies took place.

It’s also why we’ve been sharing new blogs over the past month discussing resources for merchants, like local delivery and same day delivery, as well as other tips for those wanting to go digital for the first time. 

Here are a few of the resources we put out: 

The intention behind all of this is simply to let our customers know we are here for them – and that we want to help them keep their lights on throughout this time of uncertainty. We are grateful for the response we’ve received so far. It makes all of this worth it. 

“Even though we are mainly an online business, we do have customers daily at our store to take advantage of all that we offer. With ShipperHQ making the Local Pickup option available to use, we feel we are at least doing our best we can at this time for our local customers.”

Sid Kreis, Seyberts Billiard Supply

For many businesses like this, we are their shipping experts and they come to us to find answers to challenges they are facing. When we say we’re in this together, we mean it.

We are more than happy to be a part of your eCommerce journey too and take your businesses shipping needs where they need to be, if you’re struggling. Because at the end of the day, like we’ve mentioned before, we’re all just people. And reminding yourself of this fact by embracing empathy is always worth it (take it from us).