In your opinion, what is it that tow operators aren’t understanding when dealing with customers while on Scene?
Customers can be viewed as a type of victim as they are often faced with an unfortunate situation which leaves them somewhat traumatized. While we are not psychologists, we do have to deal with very emotional people. Empathy is the key to communicating in these situations and can help to level emotions and calm a victim.
How would you define empathy as it applies to the towing and recovery industry?
Empathy is thinking of yourself in the customer's situation. These people are having a bad day and often the operator is their first sounding board, so they may unload. The operator is in control in this situation, so they must remain calm and level headed. When two people are emotional, arguments can ensue and judgement can become clouded.
You believe that too many operators are confusing sympathy with empathy. Why is it more important to be empathetic than sympathetic?
People don’t typically want others feeling sorry them. Saying you're sorry is sympathetic, but it won't help solve their problem at the moment. Saying you can relate to their predicament and understand their frustration is empathetic. While it may not solve their problem, it can help diffuse the emotion associated with it.
What are some of the ways an operator can read how a customer is feeling / understand their emotional state?
Customers can be angry, afraid, frustrated and nervous just to name a few of the emotions that the trauma of a breakdown or accident can cause. It’s important to watch their body language or facial expression and not just listen to the words they speak, but their tonality as well.
What are the ways you can respond to a customer who is in a difficult emotional state?
It is the operator's job to help the customer feel safe and secure and instill confidence in them that they will be able to meet their needs and help solve their problem to get their day back on track in a satisfactory way.
What are personas? How would you describe them regarding customer service?
Customer service involves communication at a level both parties understand. Identifying an individual's persona will help to reach the understanding necessary to communicate effectively. It’s the difference in communication with a police officer on the scene to the customer of the incident. While these are both examples of who our customer is we use a different demeanor when communicating with these two totally different personas.