Employees in many companies struggle to empathize with customers because they don’t possess a similar experience of which they can relate to.
For instance, an accountant probably does her own taxes, thus she may not understand the confusion or problem her clients face when as they try to fill out tax forms.
On the other hand, a person answering a tech support hotline likely fixes his own computer, so he might have trouble understanding the helplessness his customers feel when their computers stop functioning.
There’s a good chance that a valet parking a $200,000 sports car doesn’t understand the anxiety a customer feels when entrusting such expensive posession to a stranger.
How empathy come by
Perhaps what’s most confounding about empathy is how obvious the problem seems to those of us who can relate to the situation.
The easiest customers to serve are people who have worked in similar positions and can empathize with the employee who is assisting them. People who have worked in call centers often try to be extra polite and patient with the person on the other end of the line because they understand how stressful the job can be.
If empathy comes from having had similar experiences, the easiest way to help customer service employees to become more empathetic is to put them in their customers’ shoes.
One way is through training. Many upscale hotels have associates spend a night as a guest so that they can see things from their guests’ point of view.
Another way to put employees in their customers’ shoes is through sharing personal stories from customers. Stories are a powerful way of tapping into our imaginations and helping us understand how the characters may have felt or what they were thinking.
These methods help employees to grasp the importance of what they’re doing. And even if they don’t have direct patient contact, they go to work each day knowing they are positively impacting other people’s lives. In many cases, the stories also remind employees of a friend or family member who may have faced a similar medical ordeal.