Does Knowledge & Experience Dull Our Empathy? |#leadership #custserv

Experience Dull Empathy or Strengthen It?

Former customer service agents and tech support reps often have empathy for current customer service and technical support teams. They remember the pressure and are considerate. It begs the question: Why do many customer service and tech support agents lack empathy for customers? Do they forget what it feels like to be a customer?

Likewise, does a leader’s current experience dull empathy toward their teams? Have they forgotten what it’s like not to be in charge?

Should knowledge and experience make it easier to give empathy?

Or Does Knowledge & Experience Dull Empathy?


Experience Dull Empathy: Image is T-shirt saying You're Stupid.

Experience Dull Empathy?

Image via

Does Knowledge & Experience Dull Empathy?

Knowledge and experience can blind customer service agents and tech support reps to customers’ …

  • Emotions when needing help
  • Fear of not knowing
  • Frustration of being delayed in lengthy procedures
  • Impatience with being routed and transferred
  • Anger at being trapped in the maze of customer support
  • Vulnerability of having to trust others with their success

Likewise, power, knowledge, and experience can blind leaders to employees’

  • Challenges of understanding leader’s vision
  • Struggles of accomplishing goals without authority
  • Personality type differences
  • Quest to acquire knowledge and experience to perform well
  • Pressure of dealing with under-performing teammates
  • Implementing solutions with limited time and resources

Experience and knowledge deliver confidence and a sense of control — the very things that reduce fear, stress, and obstacles.   Unfortunately for some leaders and for some customer service agents, their knowledge and experience dull empathy. Add the pressures of leadership and the stress of customer service work to the picture, and it makes them even less empathetic toward those they lead and serve.

Consider: When you are under incredible pressure do you care less about other things that normally bug you?  You just want to get rid of the big pressure and you overlook everything else? But what if those other things are still very stressful to those you lead and serve? Can you find it in you to empathize with them? Or does your knowledge and ability to fix the trouble bring you to label them as emotional or stupid? In these moments, your knowledge and experience dull empathy.

The best customer service reps overcome the dulling effects of knowledge, experience and pressure by:

  1. Being aware of how they feel outside of work when they are customers
  2. Remembering to focus on one customer at a time. This focus delivers empathy
  3. Realizing that their job is to deliver a wonderful experience while solving the problem. It isn’t just to solve the problem
  4. Embracing the true role of service and support — to make life easier for the customer and get them productive again

Respected well-liked leaders deliver empathy by asking themselves: What does it feel like to be this employee right now? Although knowledge and experience dull empathy in other leaders, they live by the motto …

Don’t let your knowledge and experience dull empathy. Channel your experience into empathy that spurs success in those you lead and serve!

Your turn: What else blocks empathy & how can you overcome the block?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Leaders, Are You Helpfully Objective or Actually Indifferent?
Empathy & Integrity: 5 Keys to Rebuild Customer Trust
18 Things Respected Well-Liked Leaders Consistently Do

©2012-2015 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.


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~Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

9 Responses to “Does Knowledge & Experience Dull Our Empathy? |#leadership #custserv”

  1. Great article, Kate
    This is such an important topic and one so many companies and customer service professionals get wrong. Empathy is a mental exercise as you point out and it does require effort–but it is extremely useful and makes the investment of effort worth-while to both customer and employee. If I may, here’s an article I wrote about an empathy exercise your readers might find helpful as well:
    How To Test Your Empathy:
    Great job!

  2. Good article Kate, thanks for sharing.
    I always say you can teach people company policies, product features and functionality and so on, but you can’t teach them empathy. Careful hiring of customer service staff with the right personality is key to creating great service experiences. But all good intentions will be for nothing if the staff are not empowered to make decisions to resolve potential issues for customers in exceptional ways. Company policies have to be empathic as well.
    Cheers Kate.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Love your succinct addition — “Company policies have to be empathetic as well.” Bravo and thanks for lending your perspective to this discussion.

      Best wishes,

  3. Hi Kate,
    Love the article, very thought provoking.
    I would endorse the comments made earlier by Guy and David and would add that leadership and management in an organisation must also promote and support an empathetic culture. It becomes even more challenging for an individual to empathise with customers if the organisation is placing pressures upon them to behave differently. Interestingly, I have met lots of individuals who, in spite of opposing pressures, have the personality and determination to resist internal pressures, and manage to genuinely put themselves in the customer’s shoes. These are indeed the real shining gems of customer service.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Michael Hill says:

    Enjoyed reading this – thanks Kate!

    This got me thinking about some of bad practices/processes/policies initiated by companies that prevent their staff from really making an empathetic connection with a customer. I encountered one organisation recently, for example, that wanted staff to engage in 4 web chats at a time – of course, the multi-tasking itself would be challenging enough but then connecting with the emotions in each chat session? No way…! Too often, companies do not give staff the time to consider the emotions of the customer – therefore, the employee will deal with the call concerned more about their own emotions and closing the call rather than investing the effort required to use empathy to really resolve the concerns raised in the call.

  5. You make some really great, relevant points! This is well worth sharing with the agent side of our business, too! Thanks for the great post!

  6. This is a really interesting article. It’s amazing how often we find ourselves forgetting that we once didn’t know something. It becomes easy to snap when someone just “doesn’t get it”. Thanks for a nice read.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Many thanks John. I am so glad you found this worthy of your reading it and commenting here.

      I look forward to your contributions to all the discussions on this blog and invite you to join our weekly #Peopleskills global Twitter chat Sundays at 10amET.

      Grateful regards,

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