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Archive for the ‘Empathy’ Category

Too Empathic?

When I got my EQi results, I wasn’t too surprised to see that my Empathy score was the highest. I like to consider myself a caring person. The EQi defines empathy as “the ability to be aware of, to understand, and to appreciate the feelings of others,” so I guess I am good at it…

What was very helpful and useful to me professionally was not just knowing that I am empathetic, but how that can be good and bad in a work setting.

Clare provided the feedback for my EQi results. Because my empathy is high and my assertiveness is lower, I can let my concern for people and their feelings get in the way of saying what it is that I want/need to say.

Clare proposed some strategies to compensate for my lower scores using my higher scores and I’ve been implementing them over the last few months.

Looking back on it, one small conversation in regards to my EQ levels has really helped me move forward in my professional careers. It’s pretty cool.

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Last week i was in Chicago’s O’Hare International and ventured into the baggage office, where disgruntled passengers end up without anything to wear tomorrow – literally.  Likely the worst place to work in the entire airport.  You never have a happy customer enter your office.

I watched two different representatives say almost identical words and phrases to the dozens of passengers, but with very different results.  The most effective went something like this:

CustomerA :  “how could you lose my bag!”   I have a meeting in the morning and NEED it!” 

RepA:  “I am very sorry.  (sincere empathy)  The bag did not make the flight (reality).  There is a flight at X:XX time tonight, i will have it to your hotel by 7am.   Here is an overnight kit, discount on future flights, etc…”

The customer did not or could not complain any more.  THe rep did all he could to solve the issue, had explained the reality of the situation and apologized.  The customer left satisfied with the outcome, not happy but satisfied.

A few minutes later i watched nearly the same customer interaction with another individual:

CustomerB:  “how could you lose my bag!”   I have a meeting in the morning and NEED it!” 

RepB:  “Sorry.   There is a flight at X:XX time tonight, i will have it to your hotel by 7am.   Here is an overnight kit, discount on future flights, etc…”

This customer’s response “THAT IS UNACCEPTABLE”   and proceeded to scream and yell about all things wrong with the world.

Two things i noted. 

1.  The words between Rep A and Rep B were almost identical.  But Rep A was much more effective and seemed to genuinely care.   Rep B used the script, but did not connect with the customer as an individual. 

2. Each customer a choice in how they would deal with the interaction and the reality of the situation at hand.  While i think the airline rep played a HUGE role in the outcome of the nearly identical situations, Customer B obviously accepted the invitation to have their day ruined by the event.

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GuitarsEver wonder the effect your customer’s experience has on your brand identity and the public opinion?

In March 2008 musician Dave Carroll flew from Halifax to Omaha, transferring planes in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Apparently baggage handlers in Chicago caused damage to Carroll’s guitar http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-biz-united-breaks-guitars-video-ual-july8,0,4414385.story and after a year of trying to negotiate and work with United’s customer service department to no avail, Carroll decided to take things into his own hands, and has created a very popular YouTUBE music video / anti-United campaign calling the airline out for their failure to take care of his perceived customer service issue. His music video has had over 3 million views on YOUTUBE.

Imagine United’s annual budget for advertising and marketing. They spend millions to create their brand identity and position it strategically within the marketplace. Simultaneously they spend millions of dollars on direct labor, millions on training and development of new and existing employees. As a result of this issue, I am thinking today about the effectiveness of both.

A customer service decision, caused by an apparent operations problem in one facility is creating a media stir at a fraction of United’s budget and achieving a much less than desirable result for the company. Independent of whether or not the baggage handlers actually were negligent in their behavior, due of the increasing popularity and power of social media, United will certainly experience a negative consequence as a result of whatever happened on the ground in Chicago. The company had an opportunity to address the musician’s concern when he originally made his claim, but did not so we have to consider the actions of the customer service team responsible for addressing damaged baggage claims. Are these teams trained to empathetically address customer concerns? Are they calloused by the myriad of complaints they deal with every day and each new case becomes just another in the long list of problems they address? Do these service representatives have the Emotional Intelligence Skills necessary to perform their job functions? Is the culture at this customer service center one with an emphasis on delivering a positive customer experience?

I don’t know the answers to those questions about United’s culture and policy but am truly amazed at the implications and consequences of United’s handling of this customer’s issue, and the power of the media for one person to stand up, and tell their service story to over 3 million (and counting as you read this…) United spends millions of dollars each year to create their brand, but the real brand – the brand that people buy, trust and are loyal to is not created by the marketing department, but by the way the company treats every customer and responds to customer issues.

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