Skip to content

How to teach empathy to contact center agents

Empathy is one of the components that underlie emotional intelligence and is induced from childhood, but it can also be developed during the stages of growing-up. An empathetic person has the ability to intuit other people’s emotions, even when they are not explicit. Beyond recognizing emotions, empathy is what helps us put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, even though we have never been in a similar situation.

For people who work in public relations, empathy is essential. It is very important that those who work in customer service departments understand their interlocutors, show concern for their needs, and then offer the best solutions for the situations they encounter.

We have identified the most important steps to follow for developing agents’ empathy for clients

  1. Highlight the role and importance of empathy

It is essential for every company representative to know why it is so important to show empathy to customers and how this element can help them deliver the best results. Empathy must be a common denominator for all employees of a contact center, and it must be “spoken.” (verbalized?)

Fortunately, the theme of empathy has been among the accessible topics for quite some time, so it can be approached with ease and authenticity. But, precisely in this context, there is a risk that it will be considered natural and will not receive the due attention. Therefore, discussions about the importance of empathy, about specific examples and about the beneficial results of empathy, should usually find their place in the conversations within the teams.

Empathy can be the basic element in the organizational culture, being instilled in everyone through the actions within the company, such as encouraging employees to help each other, CSR actions and their subsequent presentation, involving employees in carrying out such actions, and having understanding and open attitudes of team leaders towards their teams.

  1. Encourage active listening

Usually, when we are engaged in a conversation, we tend to focus more on how we respond than to listen carefully to what the other person has to say. But, in order to be able to offer a suitable answer, it is essential to pay attention to what the interlocutor said. For those who work in the contact center, it is even more important to listen, in order to offer both the best solutions and a pleasant experience to the clients they talk to.

Active listening requires the total concentration of the listener (receiver of the message) towards the transmitter, for a clear and complete understanding of what he has to communicate. For clarification, it is very important that the receiver asks questions during the conversation in order to better understand the situation the caller is facing.

The exact understanding of the clients’ wishes or needs at the same time helps the agents to get more involved in the described situation, which automatically leads to an empathetic response from them.

  1. Emphasize the value of every minute spent on call

Another essential element for a successful interaction is patience. In addition to the skills of active listening and effective communication, the agent must have patience.

In order to be able to use these skills, employees must give the necessary time to each client when exposing the situation they face.

Those who show professional patience and give the caller the necessary time, without interruption, will avoid the frustration of both parties later in the call, due to misunderstandings.

Therefore, a patient approach demonstrates empathy for the client and his request.

  1. Hold role-play empathy training sessions

Some contact center employees may not understand customers’ feelings about certain requests because they have not experienced similar situations.

To ensure that they can express empathy during calls, it is recommended to conduct role-play sessions in which all team members are engaged in discussions that simulate various types of situations they may encounter in their work.

After each session you can ask colleagues what were the strengths of the interaction, what they think needs to be improved or changed.

  1. Exemplify how to communicate empathetically

The right combination of words, at the right time, can change the course of the discussion, which has a positive purpose most of the time.

Everyone learns better if they have an example to follow. Therefore, here are some sentences that can be replaced in conversations with the customers to provide a better experience:

Instead of “I’m sorry to hear that” – “I’m sure we’ll find a solution to this situation”;

“No problem” – “Is it okay for you to use …?”

“We have to …” – “I suggest we do this …”

“I don’t know” – “Let me check this information so I can come up with a suitable solution”

“You said that …” – “As we previous discussed…”

“Problem” – “situation”

“Calm down / Speak nicely” – “Please keep a professional level of conversation”

At the same time, the interaction is not limited to words, but also involves non-verbal aspects, such as tone of voice, rhythm, level and attitude as a whole.

Empathy is an aspect that should not be neglected and should not be missing from the daily interactions of contact center agents.

The suggestions presented above will definitely help you  develop this skill among the employees in your team, so that they can develop both personally and professionally and get the best results.