Can you teach empathy techniques in an IT customer service course? Can empathy be taught at all? The answer is a resounding yes! In fact, there’s some research that indicates our brains are wired naturally for empathy.
Your ability to imagine what your end-user, another type of customer, or coworker is going through is a critical success factor in serving others and building relationships. That’s what empathy is all about and empathy is what customers want from you. Your ability to empathize is how you put yourself in the other person’s position. It’s what guides you in how you handle their request, issue, or problem. That’s why we teach empathy techniques in an IT customer service course. It’s empathy that reminds you of the importance of solving your customer’s problem. It’s empathy that reminds you to be polite. It’s empathy that reminds you to take good notes so you don’t have to ask your customer to repeat what they’ve already said.
Be a good listener. As an empathetic listener, you focus on the speaker and what is being said. You’re not thinking about your response or anything except what the speaker is saying. You strive to understand and remember what is being said. You don’t interrupt or talk over the speaker. You try to listen in a way that makes the speaker feel respected and dignified.
Recall. Think about when you’ve had similar experiences in the past and how you felt at the time. It’s important that you recall your own experiences not to tell the other person about them, but to try to understand what they’re going through and what they want. Still, remember those times when you were frustrated or angered by poor customer service. Think about what could have been done differently so you would have felt better about it.
Be interested. When you’re conducting an IT customer service course, tell your students to be curious. Ask a stranger how their day is going. When they answer, respond appropriately based on what they say. Talk with the person in line. Be interested in other people and what you can learn from them.
Focus on commonality. Don’t judge. We’ve become terribly polarized. We focus on our differences instead of our shared interests. To develop a greater sense of empathy, find areas of common interest with another person. Perhaps it’s family, kids, pets, hobbies, sports, or something else, but look for common ground.
Personalize. While empathy is important, it must be personalized for the other person to meet their unique wants and needs. For example, when you’re receiving technical support, you might prefer that the technician just get to work on your issue and avoid small talk. Someone else, however, might want more of a personal touch. We’re most definitely not all the same and you must tailor your words and actions to the person you’re helping, whether they’re an end-user, another type of customer, or a coworker.
Empathy in a Customer Service Course
One of my favorite Yogi Berra quotes is, “When you get to the fork in the road, take it.” He was talking about a road that split at one point and rejoined later. The same thing applies in life. Often, there are multiple correct paths to the same destination. Just because you believe something with every fiber of your being doesn’t mean it’s the only truth. Our crazy world often has multiple conflicting truths. What’s even crazier is that what’s true for one person may not be true for someone else and vice versa.
Only when you can use empathy to see the world through the eyes of another can you begin to understand other people. You don’t need to agree with them, you don’t even need to like them. You just need to imagine how you might feel if you were in their position. That’s empathy.
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