woman in a call being rated with stars on empathy in customer service

How to Show Empathy in Customer Service

Miruna MitranescuLast updated on March 11, 2024
5 min

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  • Empathy should be a priority for companies.

  • It can drive customer satisfaction, retention, and revenue.

  • Empathetic statements convey understanding and build rapport with customers.

  • Tips on how to communicate with empathy include, among others, active listening, smiling, taking ownership, and prioritizing customer concerns.

Successfully building a rapport with customers over the phone is very important to providing a good service or increasing sales. Whether customers call about a problem or complaint, your job is to make them feel heard, respected and understood. Acknowledging customer concerns shows empathy and understanding, and is essential to great communication and great service.

Managers need to constantly remind their teams to put themselves in their customer's shoes. That way, they will be able to make the customer's problems their own and meet their expectations.

But why is empathy so important in customer service? Using empathy is essential in customer service. Practices such as listening, employing empathetic statements and demonstrating genuine care help you build rapport with your customers and resolve issues more effectively. Empathy isn’t just a skill; it's the key to positive communication and translates into enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty.

What Is an Empathy Statement?

According to researchers, empathy encompassess the ability to sense other people's emotions and be able to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.

Studies also show that these skills can be learned, and that people can increase or restrict their natural empathic abilities. An empathy statement is simply using these skills when talking and interacting with others, it could be through a phrase or a sentence.

Researchers often talk about two types of empathy:

Affective empathy which is all about the sensations and feelings we get in response to others' emotions and Cognitive empathy, (sometimes called “perspective-taking,”) which refers to our ability to identify and understand other peoples' emotions.

Cognitive empathy plays a huge role in sales and customer service, in particular when customers have a problem or complaint. Using empathetic statements, being patient and showing consideration will help your teams better understand customers’ concerns and resolve their issues faster.

How Do You Empathize with a Customer?

It's often challenging to help customers who are lost in emotions and seem unable to be receptive. How should you deal with unhappy or even downright angry customers? While this tense situation can sometimes be scary, there aremany ways to address your customer concerns and questions.

Using some key phrases can help you make sure assure your customers feel  that you're empathizing with them and taking their problem seriously.

Examples of empathy statements:

“I can understand how frustrating it is when…”

“I realize how complicated it is to…”

“I imagine how upsetting it is to…”

“I know how confusing it must be when…”

“I'm so sorry to hear that…”

How to Show Empathy in Customer Service?

Your team can drastically improve the customer experience by taking a few seconds to build a rapport and expressing genuine empathy. Sometimes customer service stress can get in the way, but the more your team can express empathy, the better off you will be. Here are some ways to go about it:

1. Listen carefully

Be a good listener and try to repeat what the customer says to assure them that you are listening and that you understand their concerns.

2. Smile

It may sound trivial, but smiling when talking to customers can make a huge difference. It comes across over the phone and they will feel it in your voice.

3. Make it your problem

Take ownership of the customer's questions, especially when dealing with a complaint. Have a one-to-one relationship with your customer so that they have a point of contact that they can come back to.

4. Allow them to ‘get it all out'

When you find yourself dealing with angry customers, allow them to vent without interruption. Listen to the person carefully while using the time to figure out what you can do to fix their issue.

5. Be respectful

Make sure you talk to the customer with respect. Never talk down to the customer or talk over them. Approach it like a regular, professional conversation and they will appreciate you for it.

6. See it through their eyes

Share your customers’ perspectives and try to see what they're struggling with and why. What is their end goal, and what can you do to help them achieve it?

7. Understand their priorities

Every customer, particularly in a difficult situation, will have a list of priorities. Make them your priorities too and address them in the right order (mirroring them). Ask follow-up questions and this will reassure the customer that you know what they want and are taking care of them.

8. Show that you care

You can build rapport by showing a personal interest in the customer. For example, if a customer says they have been sick, show that you care by asking them about their recovery. Personalized customer service is the best service.

9. Begin with a positive statement

If the customer has spent some time explaining a frustrating problem, then start with a short, positive statement to communicate your intention to help them and so as to gain their trust.

Something like “Okay, we can fix this…” or “Right, let's get this problem sorted for you…” will reassure the customer that you are taking ownership of the problem.

10. Avoid assumptions

Don't make assumptions about what the customer is telling you. Instead, make sure to actively listen!

What Is an Example of Empathy in Customer Service?

Examples of empathy can go above and beyond simple communication. It could include giving customers a call on a day that is special to them or avoiding days that may be difficult.

Imagine a scenario where a customer expresses they’re calling for a second or third time to have an inconvenience fixed; in this case, empathy could be all about following up on the request to help put the customer at ease and play an active part in solving their challenges.

How to Encourage Empathy in Your Customer Service Team

Sometimes customer service representatives may find it difficult to show empathy, especially if they are not calm and centered. To ensure customer service teams feel ready and able to connect with customers in an empathetic way, companies should encourage their agents to take some time to cool down whenever they need to.

Ultimately, empathy starts from the top, down. If companies want their customer service agents to be more empathetic, they should lead by example and promote its value in the company through empathy training. Some companies even include empathy performance as a key company metric and provide bonuses accordingly. This shows that a company truly has a culture of empathy, which will result in an enhanced customer experience, customer loyalty, and overall revenue.

Click here to discover more about customer happiness with Aircall.

Published on April 7, 2016.

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