Empathy or calmness?

What type of customer service do you prefer? Calm or empathetic? Efficient or caring? The answer may depend on the situation and perhaps it is not an either or question.  Perhaps the best customer service is empathetic, yet efficient in taking care of our concern. After all, if all we get is empathy but not follow through then we are where we started. However, if customer service is calm, and efficient, but not understanding or caring of our situation, we feel misunderstood.

Anthony Tjan, blogger at the Harvard Business Publishing blogs has a fantastic post about what we can learn about customer service from smaller companies. He boils it down to empathy. Smaller companies care more about their customers, and can act in ways that are sensible to the situation rather than scripts and pre-ordained outcomes.  Larger companies teach their customer service representatives to be calm rather than empathetic. Repeat the same comments even if they don’t make sense to the situation at hand. Many of us get more flustered with this bland, uncaring response.

Again, perhaps companies that get the right measure of empathy and calmness, efficiency and understanding are the ones doing the best job. We often need a sympathetic ear, but we also need action.  What do you think?