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We Have an Empathy Crisis on Our Hands. Here's How to Combat the Rising Trend of Poor Customer Service. Ever wonder why exceptional customer service is becoming an endangered species? Here's how you can make your business stand out in a sea of mediocrity simply by upping your customer service game.

By Scott Deming Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • We're running businesses like machines, forgetting that it's people we serve and employ.
  • Remember to cultivate a heart-centered workforce and walk in your customer's shoes.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Before I go on my rant about poor customer service, allow me to start this article with a story about something quite uncommon – exceptional customer service! My wife and I stumbled on this haven that's a walking trail, petting zoo, food truck park, beer garden and live music stage all rolled into one. The property was gorgeous, but that's a bonus.

What keeps us going back is the atmosphere and the vibe. That doesn't come from a piece of property or nice buildings — it comes from the people. Every person working there goes above and beyond to deliver exceptional customer service. I was so impressed that I introduced myself to the owner to commend him on his staff and exceptional service.

His reply immediately told me that he gets it. He said, "Our customers have too many choices for us to take them for granted, and every employee understands that because I tell them that at every staff meeting." He understands that the road to exceptional service begins at the top and, if done correctly, will become contagious throughout the entire organization.

Awesome story. But why is this kind of service an anomaly? Why has poor service become the norm? I miss days when a smile and a warm greeting were the norm. Nowadays, you're lucky if you can get eye contact, let alone a "please" or "thank you." And when you are treated well, you feel like you won the lottery!

Related: Do This Simple Exercise to Unlock Your Potential, Says the Psychologist Who Coined the Phrase 'Growth Mindset'

Wondering if I was just getting old, cranky, and overly sensitive, I decided to dig into some research on "Poor Customer Service." Call me nostalgic or just fed up, but before you dismiss this as a mere rant, let's look at the numbers.

  • American Customer Satisfaction Index: Customer satisfaction has been on a consistent downward trend since 2018.
  • NewVoiceMedia's Hard-hitting Fact: U.S. companies are losing a whopping $62 billion annually due to poor customer service.
  • PwC: 32% of all customers will abandon a brand they love after a single bad experience.
  • Harvard Business Review: People are more disconnected from brands than ever, partly because of terrible customer interface.

I think the key here is that we've got an empathy crisis on our hands. We're running businesses like machines, forgetting that it's people we serve and employ. An empathetic work environment isn't just "nice to have." Studies like Businessolver indicate that 93% of employees will stick around longer if their employers show true empathy. Now, imagine that energy channeled into customer service!

Related: Good Customer Service is a Disappearing Art — Here's How You Can Be Different

Leadership is the catalyst of change, while customer service is your competitive advantage

Don't blame the hard-working people on the frontline; they're following the culture set by those at the top. The owner of our favorite little place gets this, but not enough leaders do. Leadership needs to step up. They need to create cultures that are passionate and purposeful. Let's train our teams to treat customers as individuals, not just entries in a CRM database. If you're leading a business, think beyond the quarterly reports. A team trained in the art of real customer interaction isn't an expense; it's an investment that yields compounded returns.

If service is as bad as the numbers say, you can be as unique as our beer garden friend! Let's look at ways you can dramatically improve your level of service and the customer experience.

Related: Why Customer Service Is Your Get Out Of Jail Free Card For Business Success

Cultivate a heart-centered workforce

Too many companies focus solely on technical training and overlook the importance of emotional intelligence. However, a technically perfect transaction that lacks warmth is a missed opportunity. Empathy workshops can be transformative experiences for your team. They help staff understand customers' emotional needs and teach them how to connect on a human level. The result? A memorable customer experience that converts one-time transactions into loyal evangelists for life.

Here are some actionable ways to achieve this:

  • Partner with professional trainers specializing in emotional intelligence.
  • Incorporate real-world scenarios that employees can relate to.
  • Measure the training's effectiveness through customer satisfaction surveys and feedback.

Related: The Forgotten Asset in Delivering Exceptional Customer Service Is Your Employees — Here's Why.

Walk in your customer's shoes

If you don't understand what your customers are going through, you can't offer solutions that genuinely resonate with them. Customer Journey Mapping allows you to trace customers' steps from the moment they become aware of your brand to the point of purchase and beyond. This isn't just about identifying pain points; it's about understanding the emotional highs and lows that customers experience throughout their journey.

Here are some actionable ways to achieve this:

  • Involve multiple departments in the mapping process, from marketing to customer service.
  • Use customer feedback, interviews, and surveys to build a comprehensive map.
  • Once the map is in place, routinely revisit and adjust it as your products, services, or customer base evolve.

Regular check-ins: Keep the communication channels open

Top-down culture is a thing of the past. Leadership that keeps an open line of communication with frontline staff cultivates a culture of continuous improvement. Encourage employees to share customer feedback, new ideas, and even critiques without fear of backlash. When the higher-ups are approachable, the whole organization becomes agile, adaptive, and receptive to change.

Here are some actionable ways to achieve this:

      • Schedule bi-weekly or monthly check-ins with various departments.
      • Create an anonymous suggestion box or digital platform where staff can voice concerns or ideas.
      • Acknowledge and celebrate staff contributions to encourage more input and foster a positive work environment.

      These actionable tactics are a good starting point for any company serious about revolutionizing its customer service. It's time for a seismic shift in how we approach customer service, starting with you. Exceptional customer service isn't some old-world ideal; it's an untapped gold mine. Don't just look at the numbers as a cautionary tale; see them as a sign of the vast opportunity that lies ahead.

      Scott Deming

      Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

      Speaker, Trainer, Author

      Scott Deming brings 30+ years of corporate expertise in leadership, branding, and customer experience. Known for his transformative keynote speeches and training, Scott has helped diverse industries evolve their cultures and boost growth. Visit www.scottdeming.com to learn more.

      Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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