Empathy – the key to deliver a great customer experience or just to open a door in the communication labyrinth?

Customer experience is such a broad topic that we can never end up talking about it. And what makes it so broad is the multitude of perceptions and perspectives around it. Everyone has their own experience when it comes to customer service. And this experience is usually based on the customer profile and communication guidelines of the organisations the person worked for in the past. We are not learning a general customer language, we are learning to communicate to the customers we are interacting with and working for. All these customers might have different needs and we can only truly address those needs when we understand what they are. 

Some say that empathy is the key to deliver a great customer experience, supported by the strong idea of Mr. Daniel Kahneman who believes that: “We are not thinking machines that feel, we are feeling machines that think.” Totally true, but is this enough? Can we minimise the complexity of customer communication that much to believe that only one trait would be enough to build a strong relationship? Let’s dig further into this topic.

Playing the game of “getting it the right way” vs the “wrong way”

One of the first things I heard when I started working was the so-called rule of great customer service: your customer is your boss! Or your king or whatever. This is totally true – without customers, a company could never exist. Moreover, we are talking about two categories of customers: external and internal (your employees). The rule is not wrong – the perception people have of it is. 

Let’s take the example of an account manager, who is wearing the hat of a project manager. She/he spends a lot of time working with customers, understanding their needs and challenges and trying to provide proper solutions to their problems while keeping the business selling process ongoing. This person is performing several tasks having customer contact, but also keeping in mind the mission and the goals of the organisation he/she is working for. If this person is facing a challenge with one of her/his team members, it will have to translate it in such a way to avoid compromising the customer and still deliver results. There is no exact recipe to follow when it comes to the way we decide to communicate with our customers. In order to have a good experience, we have to understand our customers, understand their language and keep in mind the values and core mission of the organisation we are working for. 

If we only focus on developing nice relationships with our clients, we might end up forgetting the goals of our employer and wake up working for the other side while we are paid by someone else. And this works the other way around. The solution is to find the appropriate balance between the purpose of the job, the organisational goals and the customer’s expectations. This is called the communication strategy in terms of customer experience and it’s not only essential for the success of any company but for its survival. 

Are nice words honest enough?

Once we understand all of this, we will understand what it means to truly be open and empathetic when it comes to our customers versus being too nice. Being too nice or only using lovely and kind words when we communicate with them doesn’t mean we are delivering a great customer experience. One of the most important values that any organisation should take into consideration is honesty. At Optimize IT we truly value it, being one of our core values. We do not lie for you – a good communication doesn’t imply lying to our clients or someone else – we like to do things the right way and be honest with our end customers no matter what.

The danger is when we start confusing a good business-customer relationship with a nice social one. Yes, it’s nice to share with your customers how you spent your weekend and ask if they like playing golf but this will never help you achieve your business goals and obligations in terms of the business collaboration you have with that client. It would open certain doors, but it will never give you the key to the main door unless there is business value coming out of that relationship. And the only way to generate that value is by understanding that empathy is an important element when it comes to communicating with customers but it’s not the only element that matters. 

Learning the right lesson the easy way

Say that again…yes, we know – we are used to learning the good lessons the hard way – after making mistake after mistake, losing a client, damaging a relationship or even worse – losing a job. Moreover, we are used to criticism, negative feedback and sometimes aggressive comments from our customers, colleagues or managers. But this is a major red flag when it comes to communication. And this is definitely not the attitude we have to accept as a teacher or guide that will eventually lead us to a proper communication style. If we talk about empathy, we can only embrace an empathetic approach if we are treated with empathy and respect. This is a golden rule. 

The language and communication process within an organisation should be defined and explained to each of its employees, from the person who has the minimum contact with clients to those who are facing customers every minute. We are all in the same boat and we either all learn how to act or the result won’t be as expected. 

Communication with our customers should be one of the most pleasant activities that we have – from understanding their requirements to delivering them the optimum solutions to achieve success. They are buying from us the full package – which means we must understand their needs and how to solve their problems.

At Optimize IT, we believe that the optimum way is to learn how to combine traits, skills and abilities in order to build a strong and valuable communication process that will eventually lead to a great customer experience. There is more than one way to address customer needs and more than one way to express constructive feedback or to push for results. The secret key lies in the combination of elements and resources. Furthermore, we believe that any relationship can be improved or saved and there is no permanent damage as long as we put our values in action and keep the learning experience ongoing. We are all here to learn from each other as a team and deliver awesome customer experiences. 

Article written by Corina Cernaianu – Project Manager and Diana Popescu – Project Engineering 
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