Recently, I received a note from a not-so-happy shopper.
He was frustrated and upset because he did not receive the Serta mattress he had ordered. He posted a message on Facebook about not receiving his mattress and contacted an associate at headquarters who deals with customer complaints. He even sent me an email in which he name-dropped the associate with whom he was speaking on the phone. I passed the message along to our resolution team.
Our associate’s response was amazing. She truly understood the shopper’s frustrations.
The difference between ‘sympathy’ and ’empathy’
The associate put herself in the customer’s shoes and handled the concern from his perspective. Her interaction was based on empathy, not sympathy.
Sympathy is “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” Empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
While two people may never share the exact experiences, there are some experiences that are common, such as high school graduation, the birth of a child or, in this instance, a delayed delivery. We are sympathetic to others when they suffer a setback or are feeling blue.
While we may not have been through the experience, we feel for the person dealing with the issue (sympathy), and sometimes we have suffered a similar setback and can relate (empathy).
We should try our best to empathize with our customers.
In the situation I described, the associate could have stated, “Oh, wow, sir, sorry to hear that. I apologize, but there is not much more we can do. You have to contact the vendor for resolution.” This would have been a “sympathetic” response.
She didn’t. The associate connected with the customer through empathy. The result was proactive action and, with the help of her team, coordination with third-party vendors to ensure the customer was taken care of, and the problem was solved.
‘Remember the Golden Rule’
If you put yourselves in the customer’s shoes and treat them as you would like to be treated—remember the Golden Rule—you will succeed and customer service satisfaction levels will rise.
Take a moment to listen to your customers, process what they say, put yourself in their shoes and act on their behalf. People want and need to know you care.
While you might not be able to relate (empathize) with every issue, do your best to try. When customers connect with you and feel you understand what they are going through, they will be more willing to work with you.
If you want to learn more, watch this short video by Dr. Brene Brown, author and research professor at the University of Houston, on sympathy vs. empathy.
So how empathetic are you? Find out by taking this quiz.