4 Ways to Build a Culture of Customer and Company Empathy

Being an agent is hard. Every day you work with customers who are frustrated because another part of the company broke down. Your policies are backward. Your product doesn’t work. Your website link is broken. Whenever there’s an issue somewhere else in the company, your teams hear about it. They see the worst in both your customers and your company.

This can create a skewed opinion of both your customers and their fellow employees. Rarely do they get to see your product at its best. When your processes and procedures work, people don’t call. But make one tough policy decision, and they’ll hear about it.

That’s hard. Because after continually hearing from frustrated customers, this can lead call center agents to think poorly of customers AND your company.

Do your reps make comments about dumb customers?

Or, just as bad, do they talk about how out-of-touch your product, operations or marketing peers are?

If you see these symptoms, the problem is likely not with your customers or peers. It might be with you. You may not be sharing the whole story.

The nature of a contact center rep’s role is that they continually see the worst. If your teams are stuck with a negative perspective, it’s up to you to restore balance. Not with a Yoda-like approach (Negative you are! Positive you must be!) – instead, you need to help them see a balanced picture. Here are four proven ways to do that.

  1. Create (or use) your customer room. Do you have a customer experience (CX) team? If so, see if they have created a customer room or its equivalent, like Prudential or Anthem. Customer rooms help showcase what your customers are really like, and why they use your product. It’s also a great opportunity to help influence the overall corporate dialogue on your customer. The best rooms feature actual customer calls – so make sure your most important content is included. And make sure that content is still used when your customer room moves to its next location.
  2. Share your personas. Do you have customer personas? If so, these are great ways to demonstrate a broader picture of what your customers are really like by showcasing their interests and needs in a more complete context. Put up photos, quotes – anything to bring your customers to life and remind your staff that customers are more than the sum of their problems.
  3. Get your peers to visit. Many call centers are placed far from corporate headquarters, preventing easy dialogue between your reps and the rest of the company. It’s easy to demonize somebody you’ve never met. If you’re hearing comments about the intelligence of your marketers or web designers, make sure to invite them up for a visit. Not only will this help your peers better understand the call center experience, it’s much harder to insult somebody who’s been in your cube and had a great conversation with you.
  4. Lend your staff to other functions. Another option is to find ways to send your call center reps back to corporate through a sharing program. While it does cost you in terms of staff, it increases engagement and helps you to engage and retain your more qualified staff.

If you’re suffering through “Dumb Customer” or “Stupid Marketing” comments, you have two choices. You can tell your teams to cut it out, which doesn’t have a great chance to change the culture. Or you can increase their exposure to customers and fellow employees, counting on this closeness to create impact. Whatever you do, take action quickly. Here are four ideas to get you started – but I’m sure you can come up with even more.

About the author


John is a copywriter at Intradiem. He has a background in print and broadcast journalism and digital marketing with emphasis on technology.

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