Empathise – displaying genuine empathy

It’s a myth that you should ‘treat customers in the way that you would want to be treated’. Why? Because everyone is different. Recognising how your customer is different to you and responding in a way that’s right for them is showing real empathy. It’s easy to respond to a customer in the same way we respond to all customers, but that’s not GREAT customer service – that’s operating on auto-pilot.

How you communicate with your customers matters, perhaps more than you think. Think back to your own experiences as a customer. Have you ever been in a situation where a Customer Service Advisor has been too chatty and personal, too detailed, too pushy? How did it feel? How did it impact your experience as a customer? How did it impact your perception of the organisation?

In Harvard Business Review’s influential article, ‘Stop Trying To Delight Your Customers’, we learned that a UK bank reduced repeat calls into their contact centre by 40% by training their customer service reps to identify their customers’ individual communication preference and adapt their own communication style to suit. That’s a staggering reduction!

So how does this work? Think about the times when you’ve been chatting with someone who just ‘gets you’; you might say that you ‘just clicked’. That’s because you understand each other and your communication styles are aligned; it feels comfortable. Now think about someone who you don’t get along with as well – not someone that you dislike – just someone with whom you have to make more effort to communicate. This feels less comfortable because your communication styles are misaligned. You might be thinking, ‘He doesn’t understand me,’ or ‘She’s being difficult.’ The chances are she’s not being difficult, she’s just different to you.

So, what are the four behavioural styles?

  • Amiable – Slower-paced and loyal, Amiable customers like to feel supported. They are thoughtful and want reassurance that they are making the right choices.
  • Expressive – Fast-paced and energetic, emotional connection is very important to them. They are outgoing, enthusiastic and love personal chit-chat.
  • Drivers – Fast-paced and results-orientated. They want things done immediately and want them done right. They are assertive and bold.
  • Analytical – Slower-paced and detail-focused. They take their time over decisions and like to analyse all of the information available. They are curious but sceptical and will ask lots of questions.

We are a blend of all styles and there are no right or wrong styles. Just different. For example, a ‘Driver’ Customer Service Adviser might come across as domineering and overbearing to an ‘Amiable’ customer. An ‘Analytical’ customer service advisor might be appear way too detailed and slow paced to an expressive customer who really wants to chat and the big picture will do, thanks!

So true empathy is understanding our customers and being able to respond in the most appropriate way. It’s trust- and loyalty-building. We want our customers to leave the interaction thinking, ‘He really understands me’. That’s great service.


Take a look at our GREAT Customer Service programme and if you’d like to explore this topic further give us a call on 01582 463464. We’re always here to help.

Categories: Customer service

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