The use of empathy is a common theme throughout much of my writing and speaking. Our ability to empathize with our brothers and sisters of the human race allows us to connect with one another, to see the world through the other person’s eyes, and to try to understand their experience. Of course, it’s not always possible to empathize. Perhaps we’ve never been in the same experience as the other person. Still, empathy offers a powerful tool for establishing human connection. The problem is that some of the tools for building empathy in personal relationships don’t work in business or workplace relationships. Some conversational subjects, such as religion and politics, are usually off limits in the workplace. So, how can you work on building empathy with your fellow humans at work? How can you empathize with a frustrated customer or end user, especially when you simply can’t relate?

Listen to show empathy.

Listening is a big part of empathy. Through respectful, careful listening, we gain an understanding of what the other person is experiencing. The mere act of careful listening shows the other person respect and caring, both of which go a long way toward defusing emotionally charged situations. Remember, you don’t have to respect someone to treat him or her with respect. You don’t have to agree with someone to be a good listener.

Recall to feel empathy.

Try to recall how you felt the last time a software application or piece of equipment failed right when you were under a deadline or trying to get out the door. Recall how you felt when your computer bluescreened just as you were getting ready to perform a critical task. Remember how frustrated you were when you had that flat tire on the way to an important appointment. Recall how you felt when your hot water heater started leaking right before you were leaving on vacation. Remember how frustrating it was when you couldn’t figure out how to change configuration on your smart phone. When you recall your own frustrating experiences with equipment, you can start to imagine how your customer or end user feels when a laptop or a printer fails.

Express sincere empathy.

Use sincere empathetic words and phrases such as “I don’t blame you for feeling that way.”, “I’m sure I’d feel the same way if I were you.”, “Wow, that’s terrible.” “I realize how frustrating it is when there’s a paper jam in the printer.” Of course, use your own words and phrases in order to be authentic. You don’t have to agree with the person to understand where they’re coming from.

Have you ever wanted to jump through a phone line to get to the customer service rep on the other end of the connection to say, “Put yourself in my shoes!”? That’s exactly how your customers and end users feel when software and systems fail. The software or the system which fails is interfering with the customer doing her or his job. When we see the failure or the problem through the customer’s eyes instead of our own, we’re better equipped to deal with the problem and provide outstanding IT customer service.

For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills

As a motivational speaker for your IT conference, I will work with your audience to help them master IT customer service skills. Click here to contact me. You can also bring my IT customer service training seminar onsite to your location for your group, small or large. Click here for the course description and outline.

Customer service book for IT staffPick up a copy of my IT customer service book The Compassionate Geek: How Engineers, IT Pros, and Other Tech Specialists Can Master Human Relations Skills to Deliver Outstanding Customer Service, available through Amazon and other resellers.

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