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 Empathy in Customer Service – Everything You Need to Know

Empathy in Customer Service – Everything You Need to Know

Empathy in customer service – this is what most businesses lack today! Good customer service is great! Fast responses, appropriate solutions, it’s all good. But how many times have you felt that something is missing in a support interaction even after you have got the solution?

Right? There is something missing and it’s called EMPATHY!

Today, 64% of consumers in the U.S. and 59% of all consumers feel that companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience.

Exhibiting even the slightest empathy can make your customers feel happy, excited and they genuinely would enjoy speaking with you.

In this guide, we’ve put together everything you need to know to be more empathetic towards customers. Right from the importance of empathy in customer service to a couple of empathy statements for customer service, there’s everything here for you!

What Is Empathy In Customer Service?

Here’s a quick conversation between a customer and a support agent to help you understand what empathy is in customer service.

John: Hi, I have been facing login issues for some time now. Am not able to use the app at all!

Support Agent: Hi John, Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention. I can understand what you’re going through and I’m so sorry. Here’s what I will be doing to help you out….

Now, that’s a perfect example of showing empathy in customer service – we’ll explain why below.

Empathy In Customer Service

Empathy in customer service is the support agent putting themself in the situation of the customer and thinking from their perspective or point of view. This helps the agent connect with the customer, get a better understanding of the issue and offer them the most appropriate solution.

In the above example, the agent could have simply said, “Hi John. I’ve noted down your issue and I’ll forward it to the concerned department!”

The issue at hand gets solved but there’s no empathy which will only lead to further frustration. But in the example, the agent shows empathy by saying that the issue has been understood, apologizes for the same and charts the action that is going to be taken.

This results in a great customer experience and the customer will probably be happy even if the issue takes some time to be resolved. And that’s how powerful empathy in customer service can be! 

Being empathetic is one of the most important traits customer support agents lack today. And if you’re someone responsible for delivering great experiences, you’re taking the right step by trying to induce empathy into your customer service culture.

Now that we’ve discussed what empathy in customer service means, let’s look at how important it is.

Importance of Empathy In Customer Service

Empathy in customer service is not only about great customer experiences. It’s about showing how much you care for your customers as a business. Put short, it’s about making your customers happy.

Here are three important benefits of showing empathy in customer service.

1. Helps In Better Understanding of Customers

When you show empathy towards your customers, the opportunity for a better connection is imminent. And when customers feel a connection, you can provide them with better service. Being empathetic helps you understand things that are even unsaid. By observing the customer’s situation, voice and tone, you can understand why they had to contact you in the first place (but make sure never to arrive at a conclusion on your own).

It’s simple.

Better Understanding of Customers = Better Customer Service

And being empathetic is the way to achieve this.

2. Helps Resolve Difficult Situations With Ease

The one thing that frustrates a customer next to an issue they are facing is poor support. Your customers might immediately snap when they come across an agent who does not listen to what is being said or try to understand them.

On other hand, being empathetic makes customers feel listened to and calms them down. This can help in diffusing difficult situations with ease.

Like we said, you can understand your customers and serve them proactively. This could as well be the starting point for deploying a chatbot and promoting a self-service approach.

3. Stronger Customer Relationships Down the Lane

Empathy makes your customers form an emotional bond which leads to stronger customer-brand relationships. This results in increased purchases and a loyal customer base. And as a business, those are things you need to thrive in the long run.

Those are some of the many benefits of empathy in customer service. Let’s get down to look and how you can inculcate empathy in customer service.

8 Ways to Practice Empathy In Customer Service

In this section, we’ll be looking at the ways that’ll help you be more empathetic towards customers and the factors that stop you from being so in the first place (the second point talks about this)

That said, let’s look at the 8 ways that’ll help you become more empathetic towards customers.

1. Understanding the Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy

Often, there’s a confusion between empathy and sympathy – this applies to support agents and normal people as well. It’s because the difference between empathy and sympathy is very subtle but important! 

What Is Sympathy?

Sympathy is when you understand a person’s situation and feel sorry for them. You maintain a certain level of distance while doing so and you don’t put yourself in their shoes to understand what they are going through.

Empathy Vs Sympathy
Image Source: GIPHY
What Is Empathy?

Empathy is when you put yourself in the shoes of another person and understand what they are going through from their point of view. Empathy requires understanding, and the ability to share the feeling of another. 

When it comes to customer service, it’s empathy that you should exhibit. Not sympathy. When empathized, your customers feel like they are understood, listened to and you’re doing everything you can to help them out.

P.S. We’ll be looking at a couple of empathetic statements you or your support team should use in the later sections of the article.

2. Get The Basics Right

Mentioned below are the general characteristics a support agent should have to show empathy in customer service.

  • The agent should make sure that the tone they use aligns with the tone of the customer. If the tone of the customer is formal, the agent should be formal as well.
  • Late replies are common in customer service. It could be due to handling other critical cases or finding the solution for the problem could have consumed time. At times like this, it’s important that you address the customer with an apology.
  • When a customer reaches out to an agent seeking for a solution, the agent should make sure they get to the bottom of it and resolve the issue. They should not divert the customer to other agents saying it’s not related to them. If that is the case, they should make sure the right person deals with the problem and only then leave.
  • When dealing with difficult customers, always make sure you are respectful and address them by their name.
  • Customers should always be encouraged to contact the support team in case they face any issues. As a business, you should always be within the reach of your customers – pre and post-purchase. 

If you’re not okay with any of the above-mentioned, then there’s a serious empathy problem you need to address. Only when the basics are right, you can start practicing towards being more empathetic. And the above traits are equally important as all the other steps in this article.

3. Practice Active Listening

This is where you’ll make your customers feel that they are being listened to!

Active listening is the practice of allowing your customers to talk and you, on the other hand, will listen to everything they’ve got to say – without interrupting. 

Most of the time, half the issue gets solved when you allow your customers to speak (vent in some cases).

GIF About Active Listening

Once when your customers have finished speaking, repeat their issue just to show that you’ve listened to and understood their issue. In case you have any queries or you need information that could help you serve better, ask and clarify with them. It’s always better to ask rather than to assume. 

Also, gently acknowledge as they speak. And make sure your tone aligns with the customer.

4. Understand Who Your Customers Are

Sometimes, you might feel a customer is overreacting to an issue that is not so serious. But it’s not what it looks like!

Say, for instance, you run an eCommerce business and one of your customers places an order by mistake and asks for a cancellation plus refund. You cancel the order and say that the refund might take between 4-7 business days.

Now, a customer who knows about online shopping understands that this is normal. But a customer who isn’t familiar might not be okay with this. This is exactly why you need to know who your customers are and offer support based on it. 

Getting to know where your customer is from, their educational background, age, organization, how they have been using your products or services, previous experiences with your business can help you bridge the gap, show empathy and offer personalized customer service.

5. Never Let Biases Do Your Work

We thought this would be the right place to discuss this. In the previous point, we talked about understanding and knowing who your customers are. 

At times, after you get to know the background of your customer, you make judgments based on their age, color, gender, language, accent, etc. This makes you treat certain customers differently than others. 

Ageism is one of the most commonly faced issues by customers today. When an aged customer calls or reaches out for support, the service agent automatically assumes that the customer is not tech-savvy and gets frustrated dealing with them. They think it might be hard to deal with such types of customers. 

Having biases like this will affect the overall quality of customer service and brand reputation. You must address all your biases and make it a point never to judge a customer based on them.

6. Include Your Customers’ Thoughts

Bottlenecks are common in customer service. You might reach an impasse where any solution offered by you will not satisfy the customer. 

Empathy is a two-way channel and this is where you can actually experience it. When you think the customer is unreasonable, you might want to take a step back and ask your customer what could possibly be done.

Two things happen here,

  • Your customer realizes that you’re doing everything you can to find a solution.
  • Your customer might come up with an out-of-the-box solution that might work. 

Asking your customers for a solution will put them in your shoes. And when your customer practices empathy, they’ll realize that you are working for them and not against them. Including your customers’ thoughts is an ideal way to show empathy and receive empathy as well.

7. Agree With Customers When They Are Right

Sometimes, your customers might be right and your business could be at fault. During such scenarios, don’t be afraid to take the side of your customers. 

The goal is to work for your customers and resolve any issues they face. Not to defend your company by finding faults with customers when they need you the most. 

When you start accepting the facts and act on them, your customers will appreciate your transparency and the willingness to fix things. This improves their overall perception of your brand and they become more loyal to you.

8. Gather Customer Feedback at the End of an Interaction

Customer feedback is crucial for growth both individually and as a business. Make sure that you ask for your customer feedback at the end of every interaction.

Shooting questions like “What do you think I could have done to make our conversation better?” and “On a scale of 1-10, how much would you rate my support?” will help you understand how your support has been. 

If you come across multiple negative feedback of the same kind, then it’s something you need to work on. Genuinely asking your customers for feedback will make them feel valued. 

Customer feedback is the key to identifying existing gaps, improving products & services and reducing the churn rate. So, make sure you listen to whatever your customers have to say – it’s going to be insightful and super helpful.

Mentioned above are the 8 ways that can help you practice and show empathy in customer service. If you find it hard initially, try practicing it with your colleagues by creating demo sessions. Now that you know the ways that’ll help you be more empathetic towards customers, let’s look at the statements you should be using while doing so.

Empathy Statements You Should Use While Serving Customers

We’ve put together a couple of empathetic statements you should use in customer service. With these statements, you can pretty much start a conversation and close it as well. 

1. XXXX, I am so sorry to hear that you are going through this. 

2. I truly understand how difficult and challenging that can be for you. 

3. I am so sorry to hear what has happened. This makes me really sad. 

4. I can completely understand what you are going through as I’ve been in a similar situation myself. Here’s what I will be doing to help you out.

4. XXXX, Thanks so much for bringing this issue to our attention. 

5. I couldn’t agree more with you, XXXX. You are totally right. 

6. Thanks so much for your honest feedback. We truly appreciate it. 

7.  XXXX, your feedback means a lot to us. It sure will help us grow. Thanks so much. 

8. Thanks so much for your patience. Here’s how I can …….

9. XXXX, I assure you that I’ll do everything possible from my side to fix this.

10. I can assure you that the issue you are facing will be completely solved in a maximum of x business days. 

11. Is there anything you’d like to know or I can help you with?

12. What do you think I could have done to make our conversation better?

13. On a scale of 1-10, how much would you rate my support?

14. Your satisfaction means a lot to us. Let us know if we were able to help you out today! 

15. Come up with statements of your own. Make sure they reflect empathy and serve the purpose well. 

Using the above empathy statements in the right situation will help you show empathy towards your customers.

Final Few Words

There! We’re down to the final part of the article. 

So far, we’ve seen, 

  • What is empathy in customer service?
  • Importance of empathy in customer service
  • Ways to practice and exhibit empathy while serving customers
  • Empathetic statements you should use while dealing with customers

If you’re a customer service manager, try practicing empathy yourself and inculcate the same in your support culture. If you’re an agent, try showing empathy while you serve customers. Because being empathetic not only improves your customer service as a whole but also helps your business become more customer-centric.

Showing empathy in customer service leads to better customer experiences, better customer relationships, increased sales, loyal customers and long-term growth. So, make sure you start following the above 8 ways to become more empathetic.