Last year Apple earned $18 billion in in net profit on sales of $74.6 billion, breaking even its own predictions.    Most of us would agree that Apple makes a superior product to its competition, but what really sets it apart from the rest and also defines its successful sales is its customer loyalty which comes directly from its customer service.  Its secret to improving customer service, EMPATHY.

Because so many people use Apple products to document and record events in their lives, it is often easy for them to become “emotionally” attached to these products that they then call customer service about.  This is why, it says in Apple’s Genius Training Manual, in BOLD letters, to TREAT EVERY CUSTOMER INTERACTION WITH EMPATHY, NOT SYMPATHY.

Often when the customer service person gets a call, the representative has to deal with a “grieving” customer.  They aren’t “mad” at the person, they’re simply mad.  An example of this, is when a customer calls wanting to retrieve photos off of a deceased relative’s phone or a parent of a newborn’s pictures suddenly disappear.  Clearly the key to improving customer service in these instances is to have the representative put themselves in the customer’s shoes.

The same types of situations occur in every law firm across the country every day.  A client calls, frustrated that their attorney hasn’t returned their call, that the news they’ve just received wasn’t what they wanted to hear, that they had a bad report from the doctor’s office and the list goes on.  How do your staff handle those calls?  Do they respond with SYMPATHY or EMPATHY.  How often do you help your staff really “put themselves in your client’s shoes”?  It is one thing to feel sorry for a client and their situation, it is another to attempt to understand how they feel and what they are going through.  So how can you help your team begin to change how they approach your clients with empathy and improve their client experience?

How to Improve Your Client Experience

  1. Actively Listen – Pay specific attention to what the client is saying. This will always improve their experience.  Focus on the details.  Perhaps the client is upset about something entirely different from what they “started complaining about”.
  2. Apologize – Even if it really isn’t your fault, make sure that you apologize to the client to show that you really understand and hear why they are upset.  In order to improve the client experience, it is key that the client know that you hear them and that you’re on their side.  Hearing a heartfelt apology from you will go a long way towards that.
  3. Sincerely desire to help – When the client expresses that they have a problem/an issue or that they are upset, immediately offer them a solution.  Make sure that you do everything in your power to help.  Stop at nothing.  Make sure you see it to the end, to the resolution.  But, most importantly, be sincere about everything you do and say.  Although smiling is important upon greeting a client and can often diffuse an unpleasant situation, once it is clear that they are upset, continuing to smile is not the best option, in fact it may make them even more upset.  In order to improve the client experience, consider their problem your problem.  Make sure you act like it and that you are sincere.
  4. Be polite – Often times the upset client is rude. That is not your cue to go to their level and be rude as well.  You must take the high road and be polite no matter what.  It is a vicious cycle if you elect to take the same path.  It will end in a much better result if you remain pleasant and focused on the client’s best interest.  Usually it works best if you remain calm.  9 times out of 10, so will they.
  5. Ask the client for input – It can often yield an even better client experience and result if you allow/even encourage the client to be a part of the solution. Most of the time clients are reasonable, especially if they are presented with a reasonable solution.  Usually when they see that you are truly empathetic, have gone above and beyond to do everything in your power to achieve a positive result, they’ll not only be ok with the result, they’ll actually be pleased with it and will become loyal clients who will gladly make referrals to the firm.

The Key

You/your team has been empathetic (not sympathetic).  You will have empowered your team to do everything they possibly can to help the client reach a positive resolution.  And the overall client experience will have improved dramatically.

Apple wanted its employees to walk a mile in its customer’s shoes but not to feel sorry for someone.  They wanted them to try to recognize their customer’s feelings and emotions and then try to do everything in their power to make them feel better and to get their problems resolved.  Their training manual calls it the “Three F’s – Feel, Felt, Found.”

Improving the client experience is/should be about showing your clients/potential clients that you and your team care.  If you are truly empathetic, it should be second nature.  Your clients/potential clients will know that you are empathetic and sincere about it.  They will feel that you have tried everything to help resolve their issue favorably.  And, they will be loyal clients forever, turning that loyalty into referrals over and over again.  To have the “sales success” that Apple did in your firm, you must improve your “client experience”.  Start with EMPATHY and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.