Lead With Empathy And The Customers Will Follow


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My last image of my dog Bruce. In his last moments he got to be with the three things he loved most: food, ball and me.

One thing they fail to tell you when you adopt a dog is that they eventually get old.  Over the past year my chocolate labrador retriever, Bruce really began to show his age and I had been dreading the inevitable for quite some time.  Last Wednesday, I called Rancho San Carlos Pet Clinic to schedule an appointment to have Bruce put to sleep.

Without turning this post into a eulogy, I was completely floored (in a good way) by the way my vet cared for me during this difficult time.  While most customer service professionals are seldom called upon to empathize with the death of a loved one, we can learn so much from those who are frequently in these situations.  Here are a few of my takeaways.

1. Lead Strongly With Empathy- When I called the vet to schedule the euthanasia, the very first words out of the receptionist’s mouth were “I’m so sorry.”  On Friday, as I sat in the examination room, the very first words out of Jeff the vet’s mouth were “This sucks.”  Both of these responses were almost instantaneous and certainly delivered before they had completely gotten a read on my emotional state.  And yet these comments very powerfully gave me a deep sense of connection that Bruce and I were not going to have to go through this sad time alone.

Notice that there are certain situations where you can actually rehearse and prepare an empathy statement.  In the case of someone experiencing the death of a loved one, you can without hesitation respond with empathy.  Think about appropriate responses ahead of time.

2. Reassure With Empathy- When I arrived at the vet with Bruce, I was a mess.  Did the receptionists tell me to pipe down?  Absolutely not.  Instead they handed me a box of tissues and joined me in giving Bruce some love.  Again, I wasn’t going through this experience alone.  They were right there with me.

I ended up staying in the room with Bruce until the end and Jeff was amazing at talking me through every step.  He intently listened to some of my stories about Bruce’s life and interjected some of his own.  He assured me that Bruce wasn’t feeling any pain and that I had made the right decision.  He allowed me to stayed through the entire process and made it clear that he didn’t mind my present emotional state.

3. Follow Up With Empathy- Rancho San Carlos Pet Clinic has always been great at the follow up–hence the reason they are my vet of choice.  On this occasion however, they sent us a signed sympathy card along with a booklet of poems and such to help us as we grieve.  What a wonderful gesture.

My dog Bruce really was quite a dog.  He had an insatiable appetite for food, tennis balls, underwear, socks and a myriad of other items he could swallow.  The moment he saw a tennis ball, his pupils dilated and there was only one thing in the entire universe that he wanted.  While he was a troublemaker, he was the perfect family dog.  He was big, goofy, always friendly and great with kids.

While I will miss having this big, furry animal following me all around the house and wagging his tail furiously when I return home from work, I can rest assured that I did what was best for him.  I’m truly grateful to the folks at Rancho San Carlos Pet Clinic for taking care of Bruce AND me.  I am a customer for life.  That’s exactly the power of customer service experience laden with empathy!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeremy Watkin
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Support and CX at NumberBarn. He has more than 20 years of experience as a contact center professional leading highly engaged customer service teams. Jeremy is frequently recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working he's spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.


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