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Empathy in customer serviceI’m sorry for the somewhat morbid title, but I wanted to catch your attention. Here is a short version of the story that sets up this week’s Shepard Letter.  A friend shared that one of his in-laws passed away a few months ago. Afterward, the family tried several times to cancel a newspaper subscription, but the publisher’s customer service agent kept saying, “No.” The newspaper continued to be delivered every day. Even after the subscription expired at the end of the month, the paper continues to be delivered.   This isn’t the first time I’ve heard stories like this. Companies that charge their customers monthly or annually using a subscription model – this could include newspapers, magazines, software, utilities, and almost any type of product – should have processes in place to deal with a customer passing away or any other tragic or unusual scenario. They should make it easy for the family or whoever is managing the affairs. And, help them easily and empathetically close an account. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. All you have to do is a Google search, and you’ll find plenty of horror stories similar to my friend’s – and even far worse.  

A role model for handling the delicate customer situations 

Chewy.com is an online pet supply that operates a subscription model in which pet food, treats, and many other items are shipped regularly. Known for amazing customer service, Chewy is a role model for handling the delicate situation of a customer who passes away. In this case, the customer is a pet. Yes, the pet owner is the paying customer, but their furry friend is the real recipient of Chewy’s products.   When a pet owner informs Chewy that their pet has passed away, the company not only makes it easy to cancel the subscription, but they also do it with style, class, and empathy. They send bereaved pet owners flowers, cards, and refunds for recent purchases. They also request that the pet owner donate any unopened pet food and treats to local pet shelters.   It’s obvious that Chewy has a process, and there is a protocol for handling delicate situations like these. Its people are properly trained in not just what to do but also what to say and how to say it.    It may be the death of a customer, or perhaps just someone going through a difficult or emotional time; we must have a process mapped for these situations. Our people must know how to properly manage these delicate experiences with empathy, sympathy, and care.   Shep Hyken is a customer service/CX expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. Learn more about Shep’s customer service and customer experience keynote speeches and his customer service training workshops at www.Hyken.com. Connect with Shep on LinkedIn. Textexpander

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