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How to Teach Compassion in IT Customer Service Training Programs

customer service training programs

Compassion is principle number two of the 5 Principles of IT Customer Service Success. It’s a simple concept of caring about another person. Compassion in IT customer service training programs involves teaching how to notice another’s suffering, combined with a desire to help. Of course, as in many aspects of customer service, it’s sometimes easier to talk about compassion than to actually show it.

Often, in training, students will ask about the difference between compassion and empathy. They’re closely related, but not the same. Empathy is feeling what another person is experiencing or at least trying to imagine what they’re feeling. Compassion is understanding that the other person needs help in some way. Perhaps they’re feeling embarrassment, anger, nervousness, or pain. You can feel compassion for another person, an animal, the Earth, or even yourself. We’ll talk about empathy in customer service training programs next week. For now, here are five tools you can use both to teach compassion to others and improve your own compassion.

Compassion in IT Customer Service Training Programs

Tool number one: Awareness

Personal change starts with awareness. Ask your students in your customer service training program (or yourself) to think about the last time they dealt with a frustrated end-user or coworker. How was the other person acting? How was the student acting? Were there words or actions that might have exacerbated the situation? Could they have said or done something differently to better handle the situation? What can they do differently the next time they’re dealing with an angry, frustrated, or embarrassed person?

Tool number two: Intentionality

Intentionality is about making a commitment to change. It’s recognizing that no one is perfect, accepting the mistakes of the past, and making a personal commitment to changing what didn’t work in the past. When you’re intentional about your words and actions, you are making specific choices about what to say and do to achieve the desired outcome.

Tool number three: Look for commonality

Our world has become terribly polarized. We focus on our differences instead of our shared experiences and beliefs. For example, you may be dealing with someone whose political or religious beliefs are exactly the opposite of yours. If you focus on politics or religion, you may start to argue and try to change the other person’s mind, which almost never works. Instead, focus on areas of common interest such as family, hobbies, children, or pets. Avoid the temptation to demonize people who are different from you in some way.

Tool number four: Everyone has a story

In my customer service training programs, I talk about the film St. Vincent in which actor Bill Murray’s character is the kind of person you wouldn’t want to be around. He’s gruff, rude, and just generally nasty. Throughout the film, however, he repeats the phrase, “You don’t know me at all”. Without spoiling the film, suffice to say his story is way more complex than it appears on the surface. Everyone has a story that most of their friends and colleagues don’t know. When you’re dealing with someone who seems disagreeable, try to give them some grace. If you knew their story, would you act differently?

Tool number five: Be a good listener

A great way to show compassion is to be a good listener. That’s a key part of good customer service training programs. We’ll do a separate post on how to teach good listening habits in a couple of weeks. For now, focus on the other person and what they’re saying. Let them finish. Don’t interrupt. Don’t talk over them. Ask relevant questions to go deeper in your understanding of their issue.

What Gets in the Way of Compassion in Customer Service?

Compassion for another person can be inhibited by the belief that the other person’s suffering is their own fault, that it was caused by something they did. You might feel that way when you’re dealing with an end-user or other customer who doesn’t understand computers and seems to often make what you think are obviously avoidable mistakes. In times like that, try to remember how you’ve felt when you had to deal with something you just didn’t understand. Maybe it was a medical issue. Perhaps it was a legal matter. Maybe it was a mechanical problem with your car. Maybe it was a personal relationship problem. Ask the students to think about how they felt if the other person acted in a condescending manner or seemed to be impatient with them while they tried to understand what was going on.

IT Customer Service Training Programs and Compassion

Compassion in IT customer service training programs is a key area of focus. Most people are fundamentally compassionate, so the training is less about teaching the basics of compassion. It’s more about enhancing and elevating existing levels of compassion to better serve end-users, other customers, and coworkers.

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