Tag Archives: competence

“Empathy” 1st, “Fix” 2nd – A Customer Service Basic!

I provide a seminar on customer service, and have a keynote presentation called The Customer Never Forgets.  I have studied customer service, read a lot about customer service, and written quite a bit on customer service.

But more than anything else, I am a customer.  Constantly.  Practically every day.  Increasingly, my customer experiences are on-line. And most of these experiences are fully what I hoped – one-click, fully satisfied little miracles.  I click my mouse, and my product shows up on my doorstep two days later.  Wonderful!

But occasionally, not so wonderful…

Recently, a disappointing customer experience, which cost me a little embarrassment and about one hour of my time, which was completely the fault of the company providing the service because of a mistake by one of their people, made me think a little more about this whole “how do we provide a better customer experience?” question.

So here is a snapshot of my latest thoughts..

In my training, I state that all customer experience boils down to two critical elements:  be nice, and, be competent.  I am convinced that if a company provides both of these, they will, in fact, keep their customers coming back.  If the product or service is what the customer wants, and the interaction between the company representative and the customer is nice and hassle free, you’ve got a real winner on your hands.  (We’ll leave it for another discussion about what happens when a competitor has a “better” product or service to offer.  That is a different issue).

If you force me to choose, I will take competence over nice.  If the product or service is exactly what I want, and I can’t get it anywhere else for less, I will take a slight absence of “nice.”  Nice without competence does not satisfy – I need to be able to rely on the product or service more than I need someone to treat me in a nice way.  But, give me both, nice and competent, and I am happiest.

But the real moment of truth is when there is a problem; a “mistake; a “disappointment.”   When the company messes up, this is the acid test.  And when I call to say, “you have made a mistake,” the first thing I want is “empathy,” then I want it fixed.  I am not happy if it is fixed first.  And, no matter how nice the person is, after I sense empathy, if it is not then fixed, I am not happy.

Consider this as a way to think about providing that better customer experience:

If I need a precise product The company provides it, with no hassles I am happy
If I need a product, but don’t know exactly what I need The company suggests the right item/solution – I get it, try it, like it I am happy
The company messes up The representative of the company tries to fix it, but without empathy (including a genuine “I’m sorry”), before they then fix it I am not happy
The company messes up The representative of the company is really empathetic, but does not “fix it” well I am not happy
The company messes up The representative is genuinely empathetic, then fixes it I am happy

So – Empathy first, fix it second.  This is what I need when a company messes up.  And without that empathy first, I am not happy – and might look for an alternative.


I have recently presented synopses of two terrific books related to customer service excellence.  One is Demand:  Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It by Adrian J. Slywotzky.  This book is terrific on the issue of removing hassles.  And people really do not like hassles!

The other is Prescription for Excellence:  Leadership Lessons for Creating a World-Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System by Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D.  Michelli is a superior observer, and he is especially good at pulling out insights that you can transfer into your own arena.

Both of these books are worth reading.  And, you can purchase my synopsis of these books, with audio + comprehensive handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

And, if you are interested in bringing my customer service training, or my keynote presentation, into your company or organization, click the “hire us” tab.

Does Your Audience Find You Trustworthy? — 4 Components Of Ethos

“Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. We believe good men more fully and more readily than others: this is true generally whatever the question is, and absolutely true where exact certainty is impossible and opinions are divided. . . his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses.”
Aristotle, Rhetoric 1.2.1356a.4‑12


If you speak, you should begin here:
does your audience find you trustworthy?
If the answer is yes, they will more likely listen.  If the answer is no, than all is lost before you even begin.  This concern falls under the ancient category of “ethos.”

I have written before about the importance of ethos.  Traditionally, ethos stands for the “ethical appeal,” and speaks of the character of the speaker.  In an era of great mistrust, such as ours, ethos may be the most critical trait of all.

Ethos and character were frequently spoken of back in the days of ancient rhetoric. Quintilian (ca. 35 – ca. 100) actually defined rhetoric as “the good man speaking well.” This is from the Wikipedia article on Quintilian:

Quintilian quite literally believed that an evil man could not be an orator, “for the orator’s aim is to carry conviction, and we trust those only whom we know to be worthy of our trust.”

(Yes – I know – all of this is masculine centered language.  In ancient times, they had not yet made much progess in the arena of gender equality).

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) focused on “habits” related to ethos:

• intelligence =”mental habits”
• virtue = “moral habits”
• good will = “emotional habits”

In one of the textbooks I use in my teaching, Public Speaking (8th Edition) by Michael Osborn, Suzanne Osborn, and Randall Osborn, they describe four components of ethos.  These are terrific.  Here they are, from the book, with my own take sprinkled in:

• integrity – be trustworthy (ethical; honest; dependable)
• competence – develop genuine expertise; know your subject well (informed; intelligent; well-prepared)
• dynamism – raise the energy in the room whenever you speak (confident; decisive; enthusiastic)
• goodwill – have the best interests of your audience at heart.  Always mean them well, never mean them harm.

Or…  to put it all in simple terms:

• you can trust me
• because I have prepared well
• and, I believe this deeply enough to get excited about it – and I work hard to stay current
• and I share this with you to help you succeed in your own pursuits.

Enter every speaking assignment with these components of ethos at the front of your mind, and you will become known as trustworthy– a person of good character, speaking well.