Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

The Most Important Element Missing from Mediocre Customer Service

March 28, 2012

What's the most important element to providing excellent customer service? Is it the call center platform? The workforce optimization solutions that make sure the call center is staffed well at all times? The script? The first-call resolution?

It's none of the above, according to an editorial by Michael Hess, CEO of Skooba Design, for CBS News today. And here's a hint: you can't buy it in a call center software solution or service.

It's empathy.

“No matter what procedures, processes, people or tools you put in place, empathy – the ability to identify with and understand somebody else's feelings or difficulties – is a quality without which superior customer service simply can't exist,” writes Hess.

So while it might be a function of training, it's questionable whether you can train someone to feel empathy with customers. It might be more about hiring: considering a high level of empathy a desirable trait for a call center agent.

How do you apply empathy to a customer support call? There are few questions agents should ask themselves when they begin dealing with a customer issue:

  • How does the person I'm trying to help feel?
  • How would I feel if I were that person?
  • No matter the request or the “rules,” is there something I can/should do to help?
  • What would I expect to be done for me if the roles were reversed?
  • In the end, what would make this customer satisfied or (better yet) happy, and is there any reason I can't do it or find someone who can?

Too many companies, writes Hess, base their customer service on impersonal and empty metrics such as NIA (next issue avoidance), ASA (average speed to answer), KPI (key performance indicators), and other metrics that “dehumanize a very human interaction.”

Of course, implementing empathy into the contact center is tricky: you can't buy it, you can't outsource it, you can't measure it, you can't quantify it and you can't mandate it. Most companies are leery of bring up such subjective and nebulous concepts. But offering empathy to customers is the first step to great customer service.

So how do you bring empathy into your contact center? If you use pre-hiring assessment and testing, it may be time to add a few questions that measure an applicant's natural empathy...and give the answers a little more weight.

Edited by Jennifer Russell