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The Problem with Empathy

Encouraging Employees to Empathize with Their Customers

The Cheese Plate Incident is a customer service story that will forever be infamous in my family. It’s hard to imagine a plate of cheese causing so much trouble, but the real problem was a lack of empathy that made a simple error comically worse.

My wife and I, along with my parents and in-laws, were staying at a hotel in Phoenix while we were in town to attend a few spring training baseball games. One night, the six of us decided to order a meat and cheese plate from room service to have as an appetizer as we all enjoyed ...

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L01 In this chapter, we’ll see that service failures like the one I’ve just described often happen because empathy is a difficult skill for employees to master. Many employees lack the fundamental experiences upon which empathy is built. They find it hard to understand their customers’ emotions, or they may fail to grasp the importance of addressing these emotions when a service failure occurs. They may not even realize that their customers’ perspective is different from their own and miss out on opportunities to serve because they can only see the world through their own eyes. The good news is that customer service representatives can learn to be more empathetic, but it involves careful training and a patient supervisor.