June 26

The One Important Word in Customer Service

3 Strategies to Ensure Your Team Is Using It.

I just finished one of those weeks; you know –  those weeks I am sure you have them on occasion – the kind of week where nothing seems to go right. I left home without my wallet, accidentally double booked a meeting, and had multiple travel delays and issues.

At the conclusion of the long week, I was on my last nerve, when my flight home was grounded. The flight attendant kept coming going on air and telling us that we would be taking off any moment. Then we would sit for another twenty minutes until she came back on and made the same announcement.

When we had been on the tarmac for more than two hours, I was getting well, let’s say, frustrated. I was getting frustrated because I was tired of sitting on this plane, but more than frustrated because I was dangerously close to missing my connection. A connection that I had purposely chosen, so I would have plenty of time between flights.


Has Empathy gone A.W.O.L?

So, I track the flight attendant down and share my dilemma with her. She was perfectly nice, let me know there was not much she could do, but she offered to connect me to a gate agent who could help me. As I listened to her, I realized I was furious.  I was kind of surprised, I mean, I know I was in a tight spot, but I am pretty good at letting things go. Pretty calm when I can’t control the situation when forces beyond my control are causing the issues. But not this time – I was livid.

However, I take the flight attendant’s advice, and I jump on the phone with the gate agent. Again, she is nice, has a few ideas, but I get off that call even more mad than I was before. After I hang up the phone and start to think about why I am so angry? What is it that has me so irritated? When both of these people have tried to help me? It takes me a while, but then it hits me. Both of these representatives forgot the most important word in customer service — the most valuable word in the customer experience.

That word is SORRY. When a customer is frustrated, when things go wrong, when there are issues, this is the most powerful word you can use.


Why Saying Sorry Works

Customer Feels Heard – when you say you’re sorry, your unhappy customers feel heard. See, both of these associates jumped right to solving my problem. That made me feel as they didn’t understand how big a problem this was for me.

Customers Know You Care – when you tell them that you sympathize where they are coming from, you’re showing empathy, they know you care. Customers service is emotional; empathy is a way to connect. When you say you’re sorry – you are letting customers know you understand what they are going through.

Customer Relaxes and Is Ready To Learn – when you say sorry, you are taking care of your customers’ urgent need –  which is to be heard. When they feel they have been listened to and understood, the customer begins to relax, then they will open up to the ideas, solutions, and strategies for solving their problem.


3 Steps to Build Empathy in the Workplace

To get your employees to use word, “sorry” consistently, authentically, and make it the cornerstone of any customer challenge, here’s three steps:

  1. Help Them Understand Why – your team members need to understand why the word “sorry” is so important. You need to explain the power behind that word, what it means to customers, and the impact that it has.
  2. Reward and Recognize – notice those employees you have that are using it, who are authentically listening to and feeling what your customers are going through.  Put your energy into recognizing and rewarding those team members who follow this strategy, and the more you do this, the more the rest of your team will follow suit.
  3. Role Model – last but not least role model the behavior you want. If you want your team members to exhibit empathy for customers, then begin by doing it yourself. Employees will pay far more attention to what you do even more so than what you say.

You may want to check out:

Effective listening and communication skills are important assets in building great customer service and relationships – Check out Meridith’s Linkedin Course – Soft Skills for Sales Professionals


Meridith Elliott Powell

Voted one of the Top 15 Business Growth Experts to watch by Currency Fair, highly engaging corporate motivational keynote speaker Meridith Elliott Powell delivers a cutting-edge message, rooted in real-life examples and real-world knowledge. Meridith’s presentations are full of powerful content, highly interactive, and fun. She helps her clients learn the leadership development, sales and business growth strategies to turn uncertainty to competitive advantage.

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