Think of a time when you were a happy customer. Think of the reasons why. Often, it will relate to how the staff you dealt with made you feel. For example:
A customer calls his insurance company and says in a worried voice, “All my bags have been stolen from the airport this morning and I need to know what the insurance will cover.”
Which of the following two responses do you think the customer would prefer to hear? Why?
- “If you give me your policy number, I’ll check your coverage.”
- “I’m sorry to hear about that. Can you tell me your policy number so that I can check the extent of your coverage?”
The second response clearly shows sympathy for the customer’s problem, and phrases like Can you tell me ? are softer and more polite than If you give ? I’ll ...
To show empathy, you could use the following phrases:
- I understand ...
- I’m sorry ...
- I can appreciate what you’re saying ...
- I’m afraid ...
- Certainly ...
- I can see how you’d be upset ...
- I would be upset too ...
- I can hear that you’re annoyed ...
- I understand your concern ...
Come up with some more empathetic responses to the following situations:
- Customer: “Hi, I was in here yesterday buying some CDs and I noticed last night that my wallet was missing.
I’m not sure what I’ve done with it. Did anyone happen to find a lost wallet?”
Staff: “I check for you.”
- Customer: “Excuse me, I’m vegetarian but I’ve noticed there’s nothing on the menu that I can eat.
Would it be possible to have some steamed rice and vegetables?”
Staff just stares and has no response and then says, “Sorry ah, only this.”
- Customer: “I brought my car in to have it fixed yesterday. It got smashed in an accident. I’m calling to see if it’s ready.”
Staff: “I check for you.”
Here are some possible answers:-
- I’m sorry you’ve lost your wallet, it must be very frustrating. What does your wallet look like?
- You’re vegetarian? That’s interesting. What kind of food do you like? Let me see what we can do for you.
- I’m sorry to hear you had an accident. At least you seem to be all right. You weren’t injured, were you?
Can you just tell me your name so that I can see if your car’s ready yet?
As mentioned in previous articles, the words you stress also add impact to what you say. Read the sentences out loud with stress on the words in bold.
Remember, stressed words are a little louder and in a slightly higher pitch. The tone of your voice is crucial. A flat tone with no stress will show boredom and lack of interest in the concerns of the customer.
Guy Perring is Director, Professional Development Unit (PDU), at the British Council Malaysia. The PDU offers a wide range of learning opportunities from management and communication skills training to developing English skills. Visit it at www.britishcouncil.org.my or e-mail email@example.com.