Customer Service Empathy Training to effectively support vulnerable customers

We’re offering an increasing number of training courses to contact centers from the US to the UK. Vulnerable Customer Service Empathy training is an area we’re passionate about as it has a real impact on the level of service contact centers can offer, as well as the wellbeing and career enhancement of those who work in the centers.

As contact center and customer experience experts, we design programs that meet specific center and customer needs with a real tangible impact on KPIs. And the one we see having huge resonance is delivering an empathetic response to vulnerable customers.

Anything that relates to the human element is on top of the agenda, especially now. We’re all humans sharing a collective experience, but as contact centers, we have an increased duty of care to our more vulnerable customers as they are more likely to suffer detriment as a result.

That’s always been key to businesses that care. But awareness of its importance is spreading because we now recognize that all of us can be vulnerable at some time. It’s widespread as we live with a backdrop of uncertainty, whether it’s coping with financial strain, experiencing loss, dealing with emotional and psychological effects of isolation – it’s top of the agenda.

A good customer experience shouldn’t be a gamble

A few years ago, there seemed to be a lottery surrounding empathy in the contact center. If you were a vulnerable customer, it was down to good fortune if they spoke to someone who was naturally empathetic.

Some agents are great at dealing with vulnerable customers – they slow down, want to take the time, they know it’s when they need to deliver their special “arms around the client” treatment. Some may be like that naturally, some may be in a similar situation and so can empathize. If a vulnerable caller spoke to one of those agents, they’d won the contact center lottery.

Customer Service Empathy Training

But in others, dealing with vulnerable customers cause a lack of patience or the desire to be on another call – or they simply don’t recognize that the person is vulnerable and see their behavior as challenging instead.

This is why vulnerable customer training is important. How do you take people who are of a certain age or maybe in their first job or don’t have the life experiences that allow them to be as empathetic as others, and train them to recognize the signs of a vulnerable customer?

Making empathy a science and an art – not a lottery

Saying some agents are not as naturally empathetic as others is not a criticism or a slight – you don’t know what you don’t know, and for some agents, it’s simply that they’ve never been shown the importance of recognizing a vulnerable customer and responding to them accordingly.

Fortunately, all of those EQ competency skills are absolutely teachable. They are superpowers that can be honed with practice, knowledge, and coaching, making agents super familiar with all the signs of vulnerability and understanding the topic.

And then it’s about how you handle that call once you’ve identified those signs. Every customer wants to be treated as an individual, but with our vulnerable customers we absolutely need to – one size won’t fit all.

How enhanced EQ skills impact your business

And remember – how we do anything is how we do everything. When we get this right for our most vulnerable customers and we really hone the skills around listening, empathy, effective questioning, and support, we’ll get it right for all our customers.

It improves the “touchy-feely,” soft skill elements, but it also impacts the bottom line as vulnerable customers may be very loyal if treated well (not to mention the service you give all callers will be enhanced as a result of added empathy).

It soon becomes part of the culture; empathy promotes psychological safety in the workplace, and that, in turn, is a key to innovation – staff feels freer to be themselves, push brave, new ideas and raise concerns.

We’ve noticed that with the drive towards more automation and reliance on software, the importance of the human element has gone from being the domain of a ‘Soft-skills tick-box’ to being recognized as a key differentiator in a contact center.

How enhanced EQ skills impact your life

The other huge advantage with customer service empathy training – especially at a time when everyone is dealing with more than their fair share of stuff outside work – is the overall benefit it can have on your life as a whole.

The more we get used to honing and developing those empathy skills in work, the more that will feed into our personal lives. When it comes to the psychology of communication, a bit of education around unconscious patterns and cues can raise our self-awareness and we can make choices to do things differently. The awareness piece sits at the heart of it.

See our training pages for more on delivering a great experience for vulnerable customers, and on emotional intelligence in the contact center.

Are you ready to make all your customer experiences excellent? So are we.

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