Four months ago my wallet was stolen in Houston, TX. One would think this was a horrific experience, to be a woman alone in a big city without her identity, no money, credit cards, or the treasured post-it notes made by my nieces, and it was. But, that’s not what pushed me over the edge and made me absolutely livid. It was a lack of empathy and good customer service after-the-fact that suddenly threw me into a tailspin.
Once I realized my wallet was missing, I ran up to the counter at the Starbucks where my wallet got stolen, and asked the manager if there were any wallets found. He said indifferently, “No, we haven’t seen anything.” I frantically responded, “Can you please at least check in the back?” He continued in his drone, “There’s nothing back there.” I walked away thinking, “What?! No apology, no water, no free drink, no police number to report it? What’s happening to customer service in this world?”
I went on to call Chase Bank to cancel my credit cards. I told Martha, who answered at Chase, my story as I was frantic and my internal bomb was already ticking from my experience with the manager at Starbucks. She retorted, “Ma’am, if you don’t calm down, we can’t help you.” I thought to myself, “What?!?! No apology, no ‘I understand’, no care in her voice, I have to calm down? How could this be?” She continued robotically, “There is nothing we can do for you, Ma’am, as all the Chase locations in your area are currently closed”.
Lastly, I called American Express, and this is how it went: Ring, Ring, Ring, “Thank you for calling American Express. This is Sheila. How may I assist you today?” Enraged I responded, “Sheila, I am freaked out! My wallet was stolen in Houston, Texas, I have no money, no ID’s, I’m alone in a big city and no one seems to care!” Her response in an urgent, caring tone without missing a beat was, “Oh my gosh! I am so sorry! If I was in your shoes, I would be so upset right now, we are not going to leave you stranded. Let’s start by getting all your information. What’s your name?”
I heard in my head, “We are not going to leave YOU stranded. If she were in MY shoes? She cares about ME!” She continued after gathering all my account information, “What I am going to do now is transfer you to David in our wire transfer division, but before that, I’m going to tell him what happened to you in detail, so he’s fully informed, and then he will tell you where in the area you can pick up your wire transfer at a Western Union, and you’ll be all set. Does that work for you?” My body and mind relaxed, “Sheila, not only does that work for me, but I wish I could jump through the phone and give you a hug for your legendary service.” She softened even more with recognition of my humanity and says, “It is my pleasure to help you Alissa!”
At ease, I pondered. Now, I know why my company pays such a high premium to American Express. Because of the legendary service like Sheila’s…worth every penny! The result was a happy customer, a happy customer service rep, and more revenue in American Express’s pocket. Win! Win! Win!
What did Sheila do that all the others did not? She demonstrated empathy. She put herself in my shoes in a genuine, caring way. What power I thought to myself. She made my evening, and I went on to calmly prepare to train the next day with a Legendary Customer Service Story to share, money in my pocket and a rested mind and heart. Do you think that matters in this world we are living in? You bet it does! It’s what made all the difference for me, subsequently made the difference for the participants in my class, and ultimately will make the difference to the customers that receive empathy from those reps on their future customer service calls. This is the power of Empathy, as it trickles into everyone’s experiences like a butterfly effect that can reach the world.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. Look at the statistics:
“At its very heart, a business is the beauty of bringing together people and things to make the community better off—these are the businesses we admire. Empathy is the one tool that makes it all happen.” Forbes Magazine
“Numerous studies have linked empathy to better business results. They correlate higher empathy levels with increased sales, better performance by managers of product development teams, and improved productivity in diverse workforces. It is increasingly common to see such business terms as empathy marketing, empathy selling and user empathy become part of everyday business vocabulary.” The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations
“Each year, the United States experiences $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity due to low employee engagement. Companies have poured millions into programs designed to make people happier and more satisfied at work, but in ten years, employee engagement levels across the U.S. have remained tenaciously static.“ SixSeconds – The Emotional Intelligence Network
In our challenging business climate, it’s the companies that provide empathy training for their staff and their leaders that are now separating themselves from the rest, and propelling to the next level of success. In my over 25 years of customer service experience, I’ve discovered people are seeking two things when they have an issue, need information, want to buy something, or have a concern. One is to feel important and the other is to be understood, and that is Empathy.
Whether the customer service representative has had the exact experiences of their customers or not, human emotions are universal. We have all been angry, frustrated, sad, upset, scared, etc. If a customer service representative has this perspective, takes a breath and becomes mindful by thinking about what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes, they will naturally become more empathetic. By sealing the sale with their heart, the customer feels taken care of, understood, and important. Subsequently, creating loyal customers and increased revenue for the company.
So why don’t people have empathy? So many human beings experience hardship, lack of attention and guidance in this world, that they become indifferent and numb to their own experiences, let alone other people’s issues. Conversely, as it appears that many people don’t care as much these days, actually at the core, the opposite is true. As I travel from company to company around the US, training in a variety of different industries for 1000’s of people of different age groups from 18 – 70, I find examples of this everywhere. I ask one general question at the open of my training, “Please raise your hand if you want a sense of purpose at your job,” 95% raise their hands. This is the proof that they care.
So how can we bring it back? Education, awareness, exposure and techniques on how to be more empathetic, and lastly the inspiration for why it’s important and what everyone gets out of it. As I share stories, I’m amazed as I watch their indifference melt away, passion returns, and their perspective shifts to what seems important to all…Making a difference!
At Signature worldwide, we pride ourselves on training that focuses on the importance of legendary service and that everyone matters to the success of a company. May all organizations start today by training and educating on empathy awareness in your own company for the external and internal customers. Taking those everyday customer service, non-memorable experiences and turning them into legendary ones. How? Why not start by trying another person’s shoes on for size!
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