How Empathy and Adaptability Impact Customer Service Enablement

Next month, I’m moving to a house in downtown Indy with a few friends of mine. We’re all super jazzed that we’ll get to live together, but if you’ve ever moved, you know that tons of planning and logistical coordination have to happen before you ever call a new place “home.” Thankfully, my future roommates and I have split up most of these responsibilities, so the burden of moving doesn’t feel too heavy. My job in this process? Set up all of our utilities. Fun stuff, right?

In all seriousness, it actually hasn’t been too bad. In fact, most services I could set up online, and for the ones where I had to call, I had great experiences. My problems were solved quickly. I felt heard. The people on the other end of the lines were real and human. But, two of my interactions in particular were textbook examples of good customer service situations (one with Vivint and one with Spectrum) because my conversations were marked by empathy and adaptability. These softer customer service skills are unsung heroes, and they go a long way. I’m convinced that in order to optimize customer engagement and deliver effective customer service, it’s vital for teams to lean into empathy and adaptability. Here’s why:

1. Empathy makes people feel safe and understood.

Regardless of all the channels and types of customer service, one thing is for sure: The best reps actively listen to their customers and seek first to understand them as people before they ever provide support or solutions to their problems. 

For example, when I contacted Spectrum to set up our future internet, the rep on the other end of the line asked me how I was doing and if my days are looking different lately since the stay-at-home order has been in effect. Rather than jumping right into the difference between month-to-month and annual contract deals, we both acknowledged what’s happening in our world and got to share in that for just a few minutes. Empathy doesn’t typically get a lot of air time in customer service training manuals, but it’s a game changer and worth creating some customer service training exercises around. If you’re looking for some basic information about empathy, I can’t suggest this illustrated video of Brene Brown’s popular TED talk on vulnerability and empathy enough. 

2. Adaptability goes a long way.

Don’t get me wrong, processes and procedures matter in call centers. Without them, hold times would increase, ticket resolution would feel chaotic and sporadic, and customers would never know what to expect from your team. Consistency is valuable, but so is reasonable flexibility for customers. Simply put, it makes them feel unique. I experienced this in a big way in my interactions with Vivint.

In early March, I called Vivint’s support line to schedule an on-site walkthrough with a representative, but in light of the stay-at-home orders, I had to call back to reschedule. Normally, there would be a rescheduling fee, but the agent I spoke with was understanding, kind, and adaptable. He waived the fee and even gave me a number to text should I need to push back our rescheduled time again. Customer service examples like this only happen with high-quality customer service enablement and training. 

Final Thoughts

In the same way sales enablement programs empower sales reps to be amazing, I think it’s time for customer service agents to be enabled like never before. While my experiences with customer service teams were both high quality, I definitely feel like I got lucky because excellence isn’t the norm… yet. If you’re looking for ways to level-up your customer service training exercises and strategies, check out our Better Work Guide to Customer Service Training, to have your team learning, practicing, and performing in no time. 


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