Customer Satisfaction Depends on Problem-Solving Efforts, not on Empathy
It is instinctive that when something goes wrong, we apologise. This is also the first thing we do in customer service. However, saying "sorry" is not enough if companies want to achieve customer satisfaction. New research even shows that going that extra mile to convey a lot of empathy and concern during an interaction with a customer can REDUCE customer satisfaction.
The researchers suggest that to make their customers happy, companies should rather demonstrate how creatively and energetically they are trying to solve the customer's problem
. The research studied 111 clips that depicted airline workers dealing with passengers who had lost bags, missed flights, or suffered other problems of travel. The surprising results:
- Employees who expressed a great deal of empathy did a poor job of satisfying customers, as customers perceived this as a lack of competence.
- Customers cared about and valued the actual process by which the employee tried to solve the problem, even if the outcome was not ideal.
The action for companies to take is to retrain their frontline employees, shifting them from certain personalities and relational languages to the problem-solving process. Companies also should bear in mind that there are no standard formatted words or phrases employees can use to demonstrate that they are trying hard to solve a customer's problem. Instead, employees should actually dive into the problem and generate interesting options for the customer.
Source: Marinova, D., Singh, S. and Singh, J. (2018), "Frontline Problem-Solving Effectiveness: A Dynamic Analysis of Verbal and Nonverbal Cues", Journal of Marketing Research, [online] 55(2), pp.178-192.