Natalie Ruhl talked to me about using thought experiments to promote the right empathic response in support.
I’d love your thoughts on this episode! Comment below, and like/love/share/support if you found this inspiring, thought-provoking, or useful!
Charlotte Ward 0:14
Hello and welcome to Episode Three of the Customer Support Leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward.
For our very first week we’re talking about empathy and customer support. So listen on for five leaders talking about that very topic.
I would like to welcome to the podcast today my good friend Natalie Ruhl. Natalie, could you introduce yourself?
Natalie Ruhl 0:40
Hi, Charlotte. My name is Natalie rule and I’m currently the Director of Community operations at SoundCloud.
Charlotte Ward 0:47
Cool. Today we’re talking about empathy. What are your thoughts on empathy and customer support?
Natalie Ruhl 0:53
Empathy for me is absolutely one of the I want to say pillars of any kind of workplace behaviour. It’s something that you need that doesn’t just lend itself to customer support where you interact with outside people, but it also lends itself to working in a team and working with other people within an organisation.
Charlotte Ward 1:18
Do you think it’s teachable as a skill?
Natalie Ruhl 1:20
It’s certainly something that I think some people have more of, some people have less of. But I also think that it’s absolutely something that you can teach at least awareness of, I want to say the skill here is more, being able to very quickly kind of see eye to eye with a stranger, like find a level with someone. And empathy is a big part of that. But at the same time, it’s not the most important skill I want to say.
Charlotte Ward 1:52
So do you hire for it? Or do you, or do you coach for it? Or is it a combination of both?
Natalie Ruhl 1:58
It really depends on on the person, I think we definitely have both kinds of personality types on the team. In an interview situation, we always try and ask questions around empathy or around the general, put yourself in the customers shoes kind of situation. However, not everybody jumps on those. And that’s fine. That’s absolutely fine because I think it can be something that is taught especially we use quite a lot of role play for this. We create a persona of our classic customer to help people kind of like have a face or like an idea or shape of like the person that that they’re talking to on a daily basis. We don’t use phone which oftentimes I think can make it a bit more difficult as well. Reading a situation out of an email can can sometimes be quite hard. So we try and encourage people to sometimes even like read an email out allowed to kind of get a bit of better feeling for it. It is something that you learn over time, and it is a great thing to learn. Because it’s also one of the things I think that is a key skill as you grow from level one agent to grow within support or to even grow outside of support. It’s a key skill to have to kind of understand what motivates people and how do people do things and, what drives them. We certainly try and like create this awareness very, very quickly, because I feel it helps out a lot in the very repetitive, sometimes stressful world to know that there is someone that is like picking up on your cues. Empathy can come in so many shapes and forms. And it can also be too much, you know, the empathy goes a certain length, but then you might not want to empathise too much because it can cloud your judgement or it can. It might be unhelpful in the situation.
Charlotte Ward 3:55
Hmm, getting too personally involved. Yeah, and also it’s not just about clouding judgement necessarily, it can stop you from coming to a solution and maybe also cross boundaries. You know?
Natalie Ruhl 4:08
Charlotte Ward 4:10
So I’m interested in what you said there about role play and encouraging people to read out emails and communications aloud to see how they feel. Is that part of the role play that you consider or do you do more formal exercises?
Natalie Ruhl 4:25
Again, it depends on the kind of person I don’t think we usually do the one where you we set someone in a room and we kind of like I let me play the customer now and you be that one, oh, and then we reverse roles to see because I found that these there are some people that thrive on those you know, these apparently people that also love a stage, but not everybody in my in my team is is that kind of person. So mentioning the things like well, but have you considered that this is where this person is at or asked a couple of questions is more how I think empathy is less awkward for people often, you know, like, yeah, less intrusive or like, more timely. There are difficult conversations to be had and then we might know play it out. But in the general day to day, oftentimes it’s just like, well, I get that this, you know, particular query or ticket you’ve been getting from this customer seems maybe hilarious to you, or, like, I don’t understand how that customer couldn’t solve that problem on their own. But we oftentimes also use images of like law. Just think about your mother, you know, probably not the tech savviest or we all know this person that isn’t the tech-savvy. And how would you help them? You know, that’s clear to me. But is that clear to this other person that isn’t working in my role that doesn’t have all this experience with this product? It’s sometimes dialling back to simplifying things not in a patronising way, but empowering someone to achieve the result on the other side.
Charlotte Ward 6:00
When you’re coaching for empathy, you’re doing it real time, mostly you’re encouraging certain certain types of behaviours for, for certain tickets…
Natalie Ruhl 6:08
But also we use a tool where from the leadership side, we review a few conversations per week and look at where maybe was something not formulated or spelled out, right, right or wherever someone may be giving a detailed explanation or using confuddled sentences, whatever it may be in order to help them to communicate better
Charlotte Ward 6:33
Is that is that part of a wider quality review?
Natalie Ruhl 6:37
Charlotte Ward 6:39
That’s all for this session, go to customersupportleaders.com/3 for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.
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