What’s the difference between compassion and empathy for contact center agents?
On the surface, they seem like pretty similar concepts. Both empathy and compassion are core components of a good customer experience. They stem from the same desire to better understand and relate to others. They also both help to strengthen relationships with clients.
In a world where consumers crave personalized, human interactions, around 20% of companies now offer empathy training to managers and leaders. Additionally, countless contact center training exercises focus on showing compassion.
However, compassion and empathy aren’t exactly the same thing. Today, we’re going to explore the differences between the two concepts and determine which one matters most to CX.
What is Empathy? Understanding Customer Feelings
To understand the difference between compassion and empathy, we first need to define both ideas.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. It refers to how well we can identify with other human beings’ thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Notably, it’s not just about feeling bad for a customer in a difficult situation – that’s sympathy.
Empathy is about actively putting yourself in another person’s shoes and attempting to experience their emotions. Put simply, empathy in the contact center is about understanding and feeling your customer’s emotions during a conversation.
The ability to show empathy is essential in CX, as it strengthens the customer/agent connection. It helps customers feel heard and respected, adding a humanizing element to the experience. Plus, by putting themselves in customers’ shoes, agents can often solve problems more effectively.
What is Compassion? Addressing Customer Needs
Compassion includes components of empathy, such as the ability to identify with a person’s feelings. However, it also takes this concept a step further. Compassion is about understanding a person’s emotions and issues, then demonstrating a desire to act on their behalf.
When most people think of compassion, they imagine someone showing kindness to another. However, there’s a little more to it than that. Compassionate contact center agents are committed to finding solutions to their customer’s unique pain points and problems.
When agents are compassionate, they use their understanding of their customer’s needs and emotions to formulate a creative, personalized strategy for resolution. For instance, rather than just saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” when a customer expresses a problem, you’d say: “I understand how significant this issue is; here’s how I can help.”
The Difference Between Compassion and Empathy
On a basic level, empathy and compassion have a lot in common. Contact center agents need to demonstrate empathy to resonate with customers more deeply. Empathy is essential to knowing what a customer’s issues are and what they want to accomplish.
However, compassion takes empathy to the next level. Empathy is mainly about feeling another person’s emotions and relating to them on a human level. Compassion is about understanding those emotions and actively taking measures to improve them.
Let’s break it down with some examples:
Examples of Empathy in the Contact Center
- Active listening: Empathizing with a customer involves actively listening to their concerns, paraphrasing what they say back to them, and clarifying comments. Active listening shows a commitment to fully grasping a customer’s problems or needs.
- Sentiment analysis: It’s not just AI tools that can analyze sentiment. Human beings can sense the emotions of others by listening to their tone of voice and examining their words. In video sessions, it’s even possible to assess a person’s body language or facial expressions.
- Connecting with customer feelings: Empathy is all about feeling what your customers feel. We can all recall times we’ve been frustrated or stressed by an issue. Connecting to those feelings can help you resonate with your customers.
Examples of Compassion in the Contact Center
- Offering solutions to a problem: Perhaps the best way to show compassion in the contact center is to offer a solution to your customer’s problems. Based on what they tell you, suggest potential resolutions to improve their situation.
- Asking how you can help: If agents aren’t sure how to address a problem, asking how to help shows compassion. Compassion is defined as a desire to assist with an issue. Asking, “What can I do” guides the conversation to the point of resolution.
- Following up: Following up with a customer after a fix has been implemented is another excellent way to show compassion. It demonstrates a commitment to fixing the problem and improving the customer experience.
How to Improve Compassion and Empathy in the Contact Center
Though there is a difference between compassion and empathy in the contact center, both are essential to good CX. Particularly now, as the world of customer service continues to evolve with AI, consumers are on the hunt for genuine human experiences. In fact, Gartner found only 8% of consumers used chatbots in their last customer service interaction.
This demonstrates a demand for more humanized conversations defined by empathy and compassion. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to improve compassion and empathy in the contact center.
1. Invest in the right technology
Technology is crucial to helping agents do their best work in today’s CX landscape. It doesn’t just improve productivity and efficiency; it can enhance compassion and empathy too.
For instance, giving agents access to a CRM integration within their contact center platform means they can rapidly access more information about a customer. This helps them better understand the client’s pain points, previous issues, and preferences, leading to empathy.
Similarly, AI tools can analyze sentiment and provide insights to agents during a conversation. They can also surface potential resolutions to problems and the next-best actions automatically. This helps every contact center agent show compassion.
2. Leverage Soft Skill Training
Teaching contact center agents the difference between compassion and empathy and how to use both effectively is crucial to CX’s success. Both of these concepts are “soft skills” which can be developed and honed over time. Providing agents with various forms of training, from webinars to one-on-one coaching, can help them to develop these crucial skills.
Companies can even use simulated training sessions, where agents are asked to demonstrate compassion and empathy during conversations with colleagues. Today’s leading contact center tools and AI solutions can help with on-the-job training.
Supervisors can listen to conversations using CCaaS software and share insights with agents about their approach to empathy and compassion. Based on sentiment analysis, AI assistants can suggest empathy and compassion-driven statements to agents during calls.
3. Analyze and Optimize
Thanks to the evolution of AI in the contact center, companies can now collect a lot more information from every interaction. Conversational AI tools, speech analytics platforms, and similar solutions can all gather valuable insights about the customer journey.
Using the right analytical tools, companies can track customer sentiment throughout interactions and gauge their responses to agent actions and comments. They can pinpoint which strategies lead to improved customer sentiment and which detract from the quality of a conversation.
With these insights, companies can invest in new contact center scripts and training methods. It’s even possible to use data from conversational analytics to train self-service bots and tools. This can help generative AI assistants and similar solutions seem more empathetic and human.
Empathy vs Compassion: Which is Most Important for CX?
Now you know the difference between compassion and empathy, you may wonder which is more valuable to the customer experience. The simple answer is that both empathy and compassion are crucial to delivering remarkable experiences.
Compassion stems from empathy and understanding and resonating with a customer’s feelings. Without empathetic agents, companies can’t offer compassionate customer service. However, making customers feel supported and respected shouldn’t stop with empathy.
Ultimately, the purpose of any contact center agent is to support customers. This could mean helping them to make the right purchase or resolving a problem. Either way, compassion is essential to building stronger relationships with loyal customers.