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Empathy: The Real Deal Breaker in Customer Success

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Let’s look at a typical scenario: You just downloaded an app you are crazy about trying, and you hit a roadblock. You can’t seem to figure out a step in the configuration and know it’s time to shoot over a quick email to support to see what is going wrong. You have a big chance of either coming across two types of help: Empathetic or textbook response-type of person.

Empathetic: “I’m so sorry to hear you are having a hard time with our app, but I would be more than happy to figure out what we can do to make it work for you :)”

Textbook response-type: “Sounds like you installed it wrong. Here is the tutorial to do it correctly, Best.”

Which one would you want to receive? It seems like a no-brainer, but in reality, empathy does not grow overnight. It’s a feeling that you have to learn and nurture within you to come closer with a user the minute they reach out to you.

The truth of the matter is a big part of customer success, no matter the industry, is about connecting with customers, understanding their needs and frustrations, and communicating effectively with them. In short, it’s about practicing empathy — which your users can help you cultivate.

Before we get into how your users can help you cultivate empathy, let’s take a good look at what empathy is.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Dr. Sam Richards, whose TED Talk on empathy you’ve most likely seen, breaks it down in the most down to earth way for us.
In a nutshell, he made it clear—to empathize is to understand. Even if you don’t support someone’s actions, stand for a moment in his/her shoes and try to relate to his/her situation.

Now, how do your users fit in all this?

Users give us valuable access to how they are feeling about our products and what pain points they may or may not be fixing. This golden opportunity allows us to know what they truly want and need. It is also crucial for any product in figuring out ways to deliver those needs to them.

Users teach us about empathy by letting us observe their patterns, language, and feelings and allowing us to walk in their shoes nonjudgmentally. This step is the first connection in building trust between your user and your product.

Take for example the scenario I mentioned early on; the empathetic response makes a user feel like they are not only being heard but, also not judged for present issues. This reaction defuses the situation immediately and allows for a more fluid relationship to build between the user and the product owner. In contrast, the second response comes off dry and cold which could seem judgemental to the user and can automatically prevent any form of relationship from building as the user may become defensive or feel that their needs are not being taken care of.

So what’s the bottom line: Treat every user with individuality and respect and try to see their issue from their point of view from the start. Kindness, in the end, goes a long way.

About the author
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