What if we lead with compassion in customer service?
Six years ago, on May 23rd, my Dad passed away from lung cancer. The five months prior were a whirlwind of chemo and radiation treatments, emergency visits to the hospital, and a short stay in a skilled nursing community. There were many wonderful loving people that we met along the way. Surprisingly, I have some beautiful memories of that time. Seeing War Horse together with my Dad – the last movie we ever went to together. The kindness of neighbors and friends who helped get my family through. The people who came to visit Dad in his last two weeks in a Hospice House and the staff there who talked to us, helped us relive memories, and comforted us as he prepared to pass.
Then there were others. One particular painful memory was during an emergency trip to the hospital. Something was off with Dad and we were terrified that we were losing him. The receptionist at the hospital was all business. No smile. Barely any eye contact. No acknowledgement of what we were going through. She simply handed us paperwork to fill out and seemed annoyed by our questions and at the interruption.
I remember my entire body wanting to scream at her “Don’t you know this is the worst moment of our lives and we could care less about your paperwork?? Just help us take care of our Dad!” I didn’t say it…but I wanted to. That was a moment that could have used a little compassion in customer service.
Sometimes, we get so focused on our tasks that we forget there’s a human being in front of us.
As a customer, have you ever had one of those moments?
Compassion in customer service isn’t only applicable in healthcare.
There are many scenarios that can present themselves when people come to us with questions or problems and all it takes is a little moment of putting yourselves in their shoes. This is true of banking, insurance, hospitality, food & beverage, entertainment, entrepreneurism, senior living and….yes…healthcare. Acknowledging their feelings and making a little human connection before you move on with the transaction. It doesn’t take more time, it simply takes more intention. Intention to really listen, express empathy and care, and….just for a moment….be a human being talking to another human being.
Recently, my friend Diane shared that an experience her friend had at Trader Joe’s. She had put her dog to sleep that day and was feeling tremendously sad. The woman at the checkout lane asked how she was, and Diane’s friend confided her sadness. The Trader Joe’s expressed her sympathy and listened – human being to human being – while she tallied up and bagged her groceries. As Diane’s friend walked out to her car, and started loading bags into her trunk, the associate followed her out with a bouquet of flowers stating “I know this won’t take away your pain, but hopefully it will brighten your day a bit. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
That’s compassion in customer service.
Just for today, strive to make a human-level connection with your customers before you move on to their transaction. Do what you can to acknowledge their pain or simply strive to make everyone you meet happier than they were 10 seconds ago.
Comment below and let me know what you did and the results. I’ll bet that intentionally adding a little compassion to customer service makes you a happier person too.
Donna Cutting is the author of 2 books on customer service, including 501 Ways to Roll out the Red Carpet for Your Customers (Career Press, 2015) and The Celebrity Experience: Insider Secrets to Delivering Red-Carpet Customer Service (Wiley, 2008). As the Founder & CEO Red-Carpet Learning Systems, Inc., she leads a team of customer service experts who help leaders engage, inspire and mobilize their teams to deliver extraordinary service experiences. For more video tips visit our YouTube channel at www.theRedCarpetWay.tv.