Customer Experience

A little empathy goes a long way...

‘Your call is very important to us…’

‘Is it?  Really? I’m pretty sure if it was that important to you, you’d answer it now’, she sighs and mutters under her breath whilst listening to yet another impersonal, mildly patronising on hold message for the zillionth time this week.

So what is it that irritates us so much about being on hold or sometimes seemingly lost in the depths of an IVR system?  These messages sublimate – and quite often infuriate – us, and all because they are missing one vital trick: empathy.

Empathy is not the same as sympathy – nobody ‘holding the line’ or waiting to hear what feels like an endless list of options needs sympathy.  But a little empathy goes a long way.

Empathy, in dictionary definition terms, ‘is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’; the requirement for this from either a system of messages, or from a call handler, is self-explanatory really; know who you’re talking to, and gauge the messages or conversation accordingly.

Pre-recorded messages can only go so far to creating an empathetic tone; because of their nature they are not tailored to each individual caller, they have to ‘cover all bases’.  But if you’re operating a call centre, having empathetic call handlers could just be your key to success.  Your call handlers are talking to your customers in real-time, and if they have received comprehensive training, should be able to tailor the art of their conversation to correctly match the nature of the call.

If you really want your callers to believe their call is important to you, all you need is some investment in training and understanding how to convey empathy; often the opening few seconds after a call is answered are the most vital – get the callers’ back up, and you’ve lost them.

Empathy Statements

Take, for example, the following three statements:

  • ‘A member of our team will look into this for you’

  • ‘I will ask a member of the team to look into this for you as soon as possible’

  • ‘I will look into this for you today and let you know the outcome’

Adding that personal touch makes a huge difference; the first statement is completely anonymous, conveying the message that someone somewhere might get around to looking into the problem at some point – it doesn’t give a huge amount of faith to your customer that the issue will ever be resolved.

The second statement adds a little bit of a personal touch with ‘I’, however there is no immediacy in what’s being said – the ball is just getting passed into someone else’s court.

However the third statement has a personal guarantee that your call handler will be addressing the issue themselves, whether this be immediately whilst the caller is on the line, or as soon as the call has ended, and they will re-contact the caller with their findings.

The caller will feel at ease that their issue (however trivial it may seem to your company) is resolved by the actual human being they are speaking to, and will be resolved as soon as possible.

Think about the language used by your call handling team, and by the pre-recorded messages you have installed on your phone system…you may well find there is a more empathetic way to operate your company’s phone system.

For any advice, why not give us a call on 0161 850 3033 and we’ll see what we can do to help.

Mind your Ps and Qs

When was the last time you had a really memorable conversation with someone on the phone, from a company you had called?

There’s a saying that we love at iNarrator because it really captures what we do, Mary Angelou once said that people will forget what you said but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.


However, the way you make someone feel is often down to what you say to them or a gesture you make. So both the language you use with your customers and the overall impact on how that makes them feel, go hand in hand when it comes to delivering great customer service.

There’s a lot of dos and don’ts when it comes to customer service and it can be hard to decide what’s right. A recent survey from Call Centre Helper has identified the phrases our customers love to hear and those they’d rather call agents avoided using.

What you said…

Manners cost nothing – Such an obvious statement but one that really is vital to adhere to during conversations with your customers, maintaining the rapport and mutual respect so make sure the please and thank yous are flowing!

Taking responsibility – sometimes things go wrong, agents will undoubtedly have to deal with frustrated customers or complaints from time to time. Situations can be defused by acknowledging the customer’s feelings with ‘I understand’. Where necessary apologising can go a long way to help resolve a customer qualm. The same applies for situations where the customer’s query isn’t quite as detailed as it needs to be and more information needs requesting, phrases like ‘Forgive me, please can you clarify…’ can be used.

Greetings – A recent survey found that callers prefer to be greeted with ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Afternoon’ rather than Hi or Hello. Don’t forget the importance of an introduction on a call with your customers, the likelihood is you’ll need to know their name and that works both ways. Introduce yourself to the customer, this makes the call a little more personal.

Let’s get personal – using words such as ‘I’ and ‘you’ rather than ‘we’ ensure that the customer feels you have a personal interest in them, building a connection and avoiding coming across as too corporate.

How it made them feel…

Smile while you dial – The way in which you say something is just as important as what you say. Smiling whilst talking to someone over the phone might not be seen by your customers but they can certainly hear it! We call it the smiling tone, it affects how you speak in a positive way and of course that affects your customers too.

Let’s get physical - Believe it or not there’s more than just language or tone that can affect how a customer feels, your physical demeanour can get across more than you realise when you’re on the phone to someone. Posture has also been shown to improve the mood of a call, with a sloucher coming across as grumpy but someone sitting up being more upbeat, probably because they don’t have back ache too…

Don’t be robotic – Whilst structure is important, don’t be too formal with your conversation and use guidelines for a call rather than a full script. And remember, don’t say something over the phone you wouldn’t say to someone’s face!

Move around – Get your energy levels boosted by walking around on a call (if appropriate of course) and similarly to smiling on the phone, convey a better mood through your voice.

How do you greet your customers? Are there any tips that you’ll be urging your agents to implement? Make your customers remember you for all the right reasons. If you’re not sure where to start, get in touch to speak to us about On Hold Marketing and Telephone Messages or our consultancy service for really in depth look at how to improve the customer journey.