Transform the Service Experience through Empathy

customer service expertIn my last post on the five key dimensions of service quality, we considered what we can do to transform the service experience through the tangible aspects of the service we provide. Here we consider what we can do to transform the service experience by clearly communicating to our customers that we care about them.  Our customers will have little regard for us until they know that we have empathy.

Recall that the name RATER is an acronym with each letter representing the first letter of one of the five key dimensions of service quality.  They are:

R eliability: Our ability to provide what is promised, dependably and accurately

A ssurance: Our knowledge and courtesy, and our ability to convey trust and confidence

T angibles:  Our physical facilities and equipment, and our appearance

E mpathy: The degree of caring and individual attention we provide to customers

R esponsiveness: Our willingness to help customers and provide prompt service

Empathy, in the RATER model, is defined as the degree of caring and individual attention that we provide our customers.  I assume that, if you are reading this, you truly care about your customers and about their needs and goals.  However, despite our good intentions, our customers may not feel that we do.  We may feel one way, but be doing things that suggest something else.

Empathy is another case where perception truly is reality.  Our customers will pick up clues about how much we care by the simple interactions that take place between them and our company.  Every interaction needs to consistently reinforce our empathy for the customer.

As you ponder this dimension of the RATER model, here are some questions to consider:

  • How does your staff answer the phone?
    • Do they sound like they are happy to receive the call or do they sound more like they have just been interrupted?
    • Do they put people on hold and forget them?
    • Do they pass customers off to others without ensuring that the call has gone through?
    • How well does your field staff consider the needs of the customer?  For example:
      • Do they park in the “visitors” spaces without first establishing that this is acceptable?
      • Are they polite to everyone?
      • Do they respect the customer’s property?
      • Do they:
        • Clean up after themselves?
        • Cover desks and office equipment with plastic if they are disturbing the ceiling tiles?
        • Check in and check out?
        • Ask if there is anything else that needs doing?
        • Etc.
  • Do they explain the work that has been done?
  • Do they treat the customer’s property with evident respect?
  • Do they take the time to understand the customer’s needs and goals so that they can make recommendations to help them achieve them?
  • How does your staff deal with questions or issues that are outside of their responsibility?
    • Do they say it is “not my job”?
    • Do they try to find a solution and “stay” with the customer until they do?

Various studies have indicated that the reason most customers give for leaving a business and going their competitor is because they experienced indifferent customer service – in excess of 65% of the time.  I find it hard to believe that most companies truly don’t care about their customers, but I do believe it is true that most companies don’t communicate that they do by their actions.

How about you? How is your company doing with respect to empathy for your client base?  I’d love your feedback! And as always, please feel free to leave a link back to your own blog if you have one via the commentluv feature here on the site. If you are reading this blog post via email, you will need to locate this post on my website by clicking here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page where you will find the comment section.

Next time, we will wrap up by considering the second R of RATER – Responsiveness.



“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

– Zig Ziglar

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4 comments on “Transform the Service Experience through Empathy
  1. Derrick Pick says:

    Very good article, Jim. I particularly like the comment: “I find it hard to believe that most companies truly don’t care about their customers, but I do believe it is true that most companies don’t communicate that they do by their actions.”

    It doesn’t matter if employees don’t know how to be empathetic, or aren’t good at consciously demonstrating empathy, the end result is the same.

    • Jim says:

      Thanks Derrick. Your point is very well made. We always seem to want to point to big things to make big differences, but when it comes to creating an exceptional customer experience, it is the small, everyday things that make the big differences.

  2. Jack Hole says:

    Good stuff as usual Jim! I can’t remember if I told you of a book I read about 6 months ago, “Extreme Trust – Honesty as a Competitive Advantage”. It was a good one and I think empathy for the client is at the heart of it. Talk to you soon. Let me know if and when you plan on being in the Vancouver area any time soon!

    • Jim says:

      Thanks Jack. I am definitely going to look up that book. It sounds particularly relevant to the technical service business. Thank you for the suggestion. I look forward to reconnecting the next time I am out west.

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  1. […] done for me this morning.  It showed that he was sensitive to my situation (please read this prior blog post on empathy) and he provided the level of support he felt would suit my needs in the […]

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