Empathy Inside-Out: The Secret to Service Excellence

Service excellence is not just about delivering great service, but it is the ability to exceed customer expectations. For brands to excel in the long term, they need to better understand what drives customers.  Successful brands focus not only on their product, but they also look into the overall impression and emotions they leave for their customers.

As part of the LVMH-SMU Luxury Seminar Series which aims to develop and disseminate new knowledge on Asia-relevant marketing issues, SMU’s Centre for Marketing Excellence (CME) hosted a webinar, “Empathy Inside-Out: The Secret to Service Excellence” on 12 October 2021. The session was moderated by CME Director, Professor of Marketing, Srinivas Reddy and delivered by Ms Vadivu Govind, Founding Director of Human Unlimited, together with her colleague Ms Daphne Yuan.  Ms Govind and her team at Human Unlimited specialise in strengthening the social, psychological, and emotional capital in organisations for sustainable, high performance.

Ms Govind believes that memorable service from a warm and joyful heart is currently a rare luxury, which she wants to see transformed into a pervasive occurrence. The secret to providing memorable service is empathy, which has become increasingly important in the fast-evolving digital landscape where the human touch is vital.  For this empathy to reach the customer, employees and leaders need to be well.  In this webinar, Ms Govind demonstrated the link between wellbeing and empathy, and how the two factors can help empower people and drive service excellence.

According to an American Express Global Customer Service survey (2017), 66% of Singaporeans did not complete a purchase because of poor customer service. On the other hand, 65% of Singaporeans have spent more when they encountered positive service. 

“One major key to great service is empathy, and empathy requires wellbeing”, says Ms Govind. According to psychologist Felicia Huppert, wellbeing is “the combination of feeling good and functioning effectively.” Wellbeing benefits employees in many ways and ultimately, the organisation.  For example, positive emotions reduce stress and build resilience, and enable employees to be able to come up with more ideas and be more creative.

Emphasising the importance of wellbeing, Ms Govind shared in detail the building blocks of the PERMAH Framework; Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment and Health (Seligman, 2012 and The Wellbeing Lab).

Ms Govind also shared a powerful customer experience she had at a Sephora outlet, which made her feel good and earned her trust.  She highlighted that small actions like listening, sincere conversation, smiling, eye contact, and putting oneself in the shoes of another person make a big difference.

The second half of the webinar covered tips and techniques on how to improve one’s sense of wellbeing.  Using the PERMAH framework, she translated the range of actions that leaders can take to improve the wellbeing of a team.

It was a fun and engaging session where over 200 participants were given the opportunity to try out wellness techniques and take part in online polls on wellbeing.

Feedback from participants was positive:

“It was a fun and interactive session… The small things we do may affect the people around us, a lot.”

“…engaging and very realistic application opportunities”

“Will bring this back to [the] store and apply it with internal (team) & external clients. I always believe if your employees are happy, they will bring excellent service to their clients.”

In his closing remarks, Professor Srinivas Reddy said, “This is a very unique presentation…. The extent of participation we have gotten from the participants shows how we have engaged them. The number of comments and positive feedback shows that they can relate to what is being discussed. It has been a pleasure and we would like to thank LVMH and Human Unlimited for this wonderful collaboration.”