CX in Times of Crisis: The Importance of Empathy when Serving Vulnerable Customers

By Nichole Osborn

If Covid showed us anything, it’s that empathy, and human connection are everything in customer experience.

With unemployment hitting levels not seen since the Great Depression, and health concerns at the forefront of everyone’s minds, people all over the United States have been dealing with crisis after crisis. For the vulnerable and underserved, the impacts of these crises are manifold, making it more critical than ever to listen, empathize, and help them through every step of the customer journey.

Customers have come to expect consistent, high-value experiences across the board, giving them an unprecedented level of influence with the brands they choose to engage. Company leaders would do well to acknowledge this by putting themselves in their customers’ shoes emotionally rather than prioritizing an inside-out point of view. This human connection can help bridge the gap between companies and the higher volume of vulnerable customers in the US market, encouraging increased trust and brand loyalty over time.

Let’s explore why empathy has become such an essential trait in customer experience (CX) professionals and how brands can take an empathic approach to elevate experiences for vulnerable customers.

Empathy on the Front Lines

Empathy is about walking in a customer’s shoes and being sensitive to their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This ability is essential for building trust with customers, which comes from the belief that brands understand them and can help them on a human level.

In the business world, human engagement begins with front-line CX professionals. Whether engaging through voice, chat, or other digital channels, CX professionals have the best and most trusted access to customers, and their needs. So, they must have the ability to listen and understand what customers are saying and then walk the customer through a solution tailored to their specific needs. This enables CX pros to identify trends, which can further help to improve CX.

Here at Activus Connect, our CX Ambassadors deal with vulnerable customers every day, so we train them to listen intently and communicate authentically without judgment. These skills all stem from empathy, which is one of the traits we look for in candidates and employees.

Relationship Building

CX professionals ensure a frictionless, consistent experience that meets customers’ needs and helps them achieve their desired outcomes, which is all part of nurturing a relationship between a brand and its customers.

Vulnerable customers are often looking for emotional connections to their CX professionals that share many similarities with their more stable relationships. For example, they need to trust the person they are talking to and view them as someone who understands their pains, needs, and provide a virtual hug where needed.

Customers need to feel that brands genuinely care about their problems, even if it’s not within the employee’s power to resolve them. So, for example, a CX professional could say, “you’re right” or “I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this,” or simply state that they have experienced the same issue recently. These empathic statements are great for connecting with customers and demonstrating that they are valued.

Empathy as Uniting Force

When dealing with vulnerable customers regularly, CX professionals hold the key to educating the organization on their needs and uniting everyone towards one common goal—an elevated experience for everyone.

Empathy is the driving force behind this united front. A deep understanding of what vulnerable customers need, can allow organizations a customer-centric approach and ensure they provide the right experiences. With first-hand knowledge of customer trends, and pain points, CX professionals can inspire organizations to drive meaningful change on behalf of the customer.

At Activus Connect, we ensure that our CX Ambassadors have a voice within the organization, empowering them to come forward with fresh ideas for customer engagement. By encouraging them to influence our approach, we’re applying the voice of the customer, and the Ambassador serving them within our continuous improvement culture, driven by complete empathy for the needs of our customers and our Ambassadors.

Remembering Employee Needs

When regularly dealing with vulnerable and underserved customers, CX professionals also deal with emotional challenges that companies need to recognize.

Leaders should maintain open lines of communication with their CX pros, schedule time to check in on their wellbeing, and help navigate any concerns. Employees must get the personal support they need as it shows an internal level of empathy within the organization, which shines outwards when dealing with customers.

In the end, customer experience is about how customers feel, no matter their background, and if they feel like a brand can’t empathize with them, they will search elsewhere for one that does.