7 Tips to Practice Empathy in Customer Service

Tips to Practice Empathy in Customer Service

What is empathy in customer service?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of one another.” As human beings, it’s only natural to want to be understood. 

Everyone, at some point or another, reaches out to customer service to express feelings of frustration with a product or service. Poor customer service experiences are often a result of the customer service representative lacking empathy. Therefore, it becomes important that customer service reps are able to empathize with customers.

In customer service, empathy is about identifying with how the customer feels and responding accordingly so they feel heard, validated, and understood.

In this article, we’ll explore how empathy can separate your business from the competition, and seven ways you and your team can practice empathy in customer service.

Customer service empathy can make your business stand out

Customer loyalty isn’t just about offering the lowest price. A 2018 Accenture Strategy study found that over half of U.S. consumers have changed providers within the past year, with 18% confirming their brand expectations have changed. Two-thirds of customers spend more with brands they love—and providing a quality customer service experience is one way to foster loyalty.

Imagine this:

You’ve been waiting all day for an important package to arrive, but it isn’t delivered. You decide to check the tracking information and find out the order hasn’t even shipped yet. There was some sort of mix-up with the merchants and the package won’t arrive when you needed it.

You decide to reach out to customer service.

Agent A essentially tells you that there is nothing you can do but wait. They don’t offer any kind of help. 

Frustrated with this outcome, you try again. This time, you reach a customer service agent who apologizes for the issue and explains that they understand your frustration. They offer a variety of solutions to resolve the issue and remain in contact with you until you find a resolution.

It’s clear you would prefer Agent B, the clear difference being empathy. The presence of empathy can mean the difference between a satisfied and dissatisfied customer.

Training your agents to use this approach increases customer satisfaction, which in turn builds more customer loyalty. Furthermore, it works wonders to enhance the overall customer experience.

customer service empathy on the phone

7 tips to practice customer service empathy

So, you understand that you need to show empathy in customer service, but you aren’t sure how to make it a core part of your company culture. It starts with your team members.

Empathizing may come naturally to some people but may be difficult for others. Take a page from tech-giant Apple and include a guide to empathy in your training manual. Providing this training helps to guide your support team when learning how to practice empathy.

While Apple’s guide is designed to help their teams on the sales floor, virtual interactions are slightly different. That’s why you should also:

  • Ask your customer service agents to carry out common tasks your customers do, taking note of anything they found challenging in the process.
  • Have team members review ratings, surveys, and previous customer service conversations so they can practice identifying customer needs and emotions during the interaction.
  • Model empathy throughout your organization, from the top down.

Let’s explore other ways your customer service team can practice empathy during customer interactions. 

Allow the customer to vent

1. Allow the customer to vent.

Customers need time to explain the situation and how it’s affecting them. Some will be calmer than others, and it can be challenging not to let your own frustrations come through. 

Instead of being defensive, allow them to vent their frustrations and concerns. Think about how you would feel in their shoes, and how you would want someone to treat you. Don’t you feel better after you just have a few minutes to vent about something that’s bothering you? 

Angry customers are part of the job, but letting them vent can be a great way to diffuse the situation. There are many ways to handle upset customers while still positively representing your brand.

2. Clearly address the customer’s concerns.

Addressing the customer’s concerns is key to helping them feel understood. If they feel like you don’t understand what they need, that will only increase their frustration. When you make it clear that you understand the customer’s frustration, he or she will see that you’re trying to solve the problem.

Continuing with our example from above, if the customer comes to you with frustration about an undelivered package, you can use phrases like:

  • “I completely understand your frustration that the package didn’t arrive as expected. I would feel that way, too. To remedy the situation, I can overnight a replacement for you.”
  • “I know it can be frustrating when you need something and it doesn’t arrive when you expect it to. I apologize for the inconvenience and will glady overnight a replacement.”
Practice active listening with customers

3. Practice active listening.

Active listening involves making a conscious effort to go beyond a person’s words to understand what they’re really communicating. To actively listen, you have to pay close attention to the other person.

It means you shouldn’t become distracted by anything else going on around you, or lose focus on what the other person is saying. It’s not just what they’re saying, but how they’re saying it that matters.

In face-to-face interactions, you have body language, eye contact, and tone of voice to help you get a better understanding of the person’s emotions. In virtual interactions, support agents will have to forego those cues, but can still put their empathy skills to work.

One of the best ways to use active listening in live chat is to restate and summarize the customer’s problem using your own words. You can also ask for more information and validate their point of view.

For example:

  • “If I understand correctly, you expected your package to arrive today, only to find out it hadn’t been shipped at all. Is this correct?”
  • “I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this as one of our valued customers. To make sure I’m understanding correctly, you expected your package to arrive today, but it hasn’t been shipped out yet. Is this correct?” 

4. View things from the customer’s perspective.

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes for a moment. The customer often understands that the issue isn’t your fault, but that doesn’t mean they want to take time out of their day to speak to customer support.

Think about where your customer is coming from. Don’t just consider their frustrations at the moment, but the emotions they have undergone from the time they discovered the problem until it’s resolved. Consider each step and how long each one has taken.

This ensures you understand their point of view, which allows you to empathize more effectively.

For example:

  • “I know you’re busy, and I’m sorry you’re having to take time out of your day to resolve the issue, but I am working on making it right for you.” 
  • “You’re right. You shouldn’t have expected a package today only to find it hasn’t shipped. I apologize for the mix-up and will get it resolved right now.”

5. Overcome personal biases.

Biases are our brain’s shortcuts to help us store more information. Biases are a normal part of the human experience for everyone. However, we don’t all share the same ones. Unfortunately, in customer service, no bias will work in your favor. They are, after all, preconceptions that make us jump to conclusions in an effort to save time.

Personal biases can prevent you from doing the best job without you even realizing it.

For example, one’s personal bias could lead them to assume that an older customer is less tech savvy. You’re less likely to be willing to admit that your software has a basic usability issue.

Incorporate empathy statements

6. Incorporate empathy statements.

Empathy statements allow you to convey to your customer that you understand what they’re feeling. It shows that you understand customers’ issues, and that you’re invested in helping them address the issues. These statements also give you a chance to add a human touch to your digital customer service efforts.

Empathetic statements you can use include:

  • “If I understand correctly…”
  • “If it were me in this situation, I would feel X, too.”
  • “Thank you for letting us know about this.”
  • “I appreciate you reaching out to us about X.”
  • “I’ve experienced this, too.”

7. Try to create a genuine connection with the customer.

While the main goal of any customer service interaction is to help your customer, that doesn’t mean you have to follow a script every time. If you see an opportunity to connect on a personal level because you noticed that you and your customer have something in common, bring it up.

The small moments can help boost your customer’s mood and make it easier to solve a problem. When appropriate, it also helps if you can share a few laughs (or emojis) while you exchange shared experiences.

This builds connection and strengthens customer relationships. Above all, it gives them a pleasant memory to associate with your brand.

Better serve your customers with ChatSupport

Better serve your customers with ChatSupport

Empathy is important in customer service because it helps people feel heard. It’s a skill that takes practice and builds over time. When used correctly, it can do wonders for your customer service because humans are emotional creatures.

Use these seven tactics to practice empathy while using ChatSupport’s live chat to connect with your customers, and you may be surprised at the result.

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