By Sarah Bennight | May. 07, 2019

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With the digital era increasing the ways we can connect and interact online, the need for empathetic human interaction is at an all-time high. Businesses can help foster these types of interactions by hiring and training the right staff for the contact center or outsourcing their agent needs to the right organization. But what do you look for when hiring and training staff to provide the best customer experience? How can people provide a caring and nurturing environment with a simple phone call? Here are three ways to add more heart to your contact center.

  1. Active Listening – Active listening has been called the foundation of any good relationship. Effective communication is dependent upon listening to one another, in order to respond in a way that makes sense. This is the same in the customer service business. On the other end of every call is a person that deserves your undivided attention so that they can feel heard, understood, and served. To demonstrate this, try repeating what the customer says to assure them that you are listening and that you understand their needs. When something is not completely understood, always ask for clarification, and then repeat your interpretation to ensure you are on the same page. Developing this skill in your contact center will provide for meaningful interactions and loyal customers.
  2. Empathy Statements – Empathy statements are short phrases that help you establish a connection with the person you are talking to. The ability to share or understand the feelings of others is critical to the customer experience. Expressing emotion and empathy can be difficult when the person is on the other end of the phone and you can’t see their non-verbal cues. While the digital age is revolutionizing the way we connect, we can’t dismiss the downside of having predominantly digital communication. Verbal communication and the actual words we use equate to only 35% of the holistic conversation. Thus, nonverbal communication is a large part of communication as a whole, and with the paradigm shift to digital, it often gets lost in translation. With the digital-age generations becoming predominant in the workforce, empathy is becoming a tougher skill to find in employees. But you can train and guide agents through empathetic scripting options, and how to diffuse an angry customer by listening and expressing understanding to what they are experiencing. Here are a few examples of top empathy statements in a contact center:

    • “I would feel the same in your situation, but we will sort this out…”
    • “I know how frustrating it can be – let’s see how I can help you…”
    • “Apologies for the wait. I appreciate your patience.”
    • “We will help you.”

  3. Smile – It may sound basic, but always smile when on the phone. Smiling improves vocal tone and is proven to sound more positive and friendly. Smiles and positivity have also been shown to diffuse an angry or negative customer. A positive environment can also be created by adjusting posture and using the facial expressions and body language you would use in a normal face-to-face conversation. Customers can easily pick up non-verbal cues through the phone, so make sure your scripts are presented from a smiling, positive, and relaxed atmosphere. A VP of Customer Experience for a large client, who recently visited one of our centers, said the following:
    “Call centers are not typically happy places, but walking through [Stericycle’s] , I saw a lot of smiling patient representatives. Our patients can hear that smile through the phone, and it really does make a difference.”

As American poet Maya Angelou is quoted saying, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Train your agent staff to gauge how a customer is feeling and pace the call accordingly. Through active listening, empathy statements, and smiling, customers will make a strong connection with your brand even through difficult times. Strong empathetic interactions with customers will drive loyalty and long-term relationships.

Sarah Bennight

Author: Sarah Bennight

Sarah is a Marketing Strategist at Stericycle Communications Solutions aligning product marketing and content strategy for the enterprise healthcare market. With nearly 8 years of Health IT experience, she has had various roles working within product development, marketing, and sales teams to drive greater understanding of industry regulations and trends, market positioning, and the voice of the customer. You can follow Stericycle Communication Solutions at your favorite social media platform.