Empathy and the Telephone – do we really understand it?

By Bob Morrell on August 19, 2019

As a father of two teenagers, I do sometimes worry that we’re creating a generation of people who lack genuine empathy with their fellow human beings. Interactions that we take for granted, like politeness, basic manners, gratitude, active listening, and exhibiting a duty of care towards others, are essential. Brands that put empathy at the heart of their customer service will always increase the advocacy for that brand.

Listening to contact centres, you can hear the conversations that show us where empathy is lacking. We call people who are potential customers, or they call us, keen to buy our holidays, and we say ‘How are you today?’ because we think we should, not because we care how that person actually is. We want them to say ‘fine’.  When the customer decides to share how they really are; ‘Well, not so good, having a tough day…’ we’re not sufficiently emotionally equipped to deal with that information. ‘Oh, that’s a shame… erm, can I just talk about your holiday?’.

If you were sitting in a pub, and someone you met shared that, then the proximity and environment, surely, would generate the empathetic reaction. ‘I’m really sorry to hear that, what’s going to improve your day?’ or if it’s really serious you’d simply convey your human compassion; ‘I’m really sorry that you’re going through that.’

Because we’re on the phone, we’re not as comfortable exhibiting this empathy. So, when the customer shares something real, we gloss over it and move on, which in the end, shows we never really cared in the first place.

Look at how your customers are served. Is empathy and understanding at the heart of what you do? Do your people reflect the caring values that you require in order to win and retain customers, to form relationships that build your business, or is it just window dressing?

There are many brands, right now, who believed they were empathetic, but have suddenly realised that the façade of genuine concern was purely that.