A few years ago, I received an Echo Dot device as a Christmas present. I couldn’t wait to plug it in and ask Alexa all sorts of questions I was tired of typing into Google’s omnipresent search bar.
My excitement didn’t last long, though. During the setup, I couldn’t get it to work! I tried everything before calling Amazon’s customer support as the last resort. I half-expected to be turned down for being too dumb.
Instead, I was connected to a kind rep who listened to me patiently and proceeded to guide me through the setup process. After each instruction, he waited without complaints for me to finish the step, confirmed if it was executed correctly, and only then moved on to the next. His voice never betrayed annoyance or exasperation.
By the end of a very tiring 20 minutes for him, Alexa was finally responding to me. And I had never felt more grateful to anyone for being this empathetic.
Empathy is an under-rated tool in the arsenal of every customer service rep. And it can single-handedly catapult a business to either the very top or make it sink to rock bottom.
What is empathy in customer service?
Empathy is the ability to understand the emotions of others. It is placing oneself in another person's shoes and considering their perspective. In customer service, empathy allows representatives to connect with customers on a personal level, listen to their concerns, and find solutions that meet their needs.
For example, imagine a customer is upset because they received the wrong order. A customer service representative with empathy might take the time to listen to the customer's frustration, apologize for the mistake, and work to find a solution that makes the customer happy.
Why is empathy important in customer service?
Customers are quick to withdraw support from businesses that don’t support them back. This makes empathy in customer service not just important but also essential.
Nearly 52% of the customers surveyed in Hiver’s 2020 research report expected customer service to be more empathetic post-Covid.
According to Freshworks’ research, a similar percentage of consumers stopped buying from a company due to their communication, 17% of them primarily because of ‘insensitivity’ in engagement.
Empathetic customer service helps create a positive and fulfilling experience for the customer. When a customer feels that their concerns are validated, they are more likely to feel satisfied with the resolution of their issue.
Additionally, empathy can build trust and rapport between the customer and the customer service representative and help de-escalate difficult situations. These can lead to a better overall impression of the company in the minds of the customers and foster long-term customer loyalty.
While empathy is important in customer service, too much of it can also harm the business.
Empathy vs. sympathy in customer service: Knowing what to avoid
When you have the best intentions for solving your customers’ problems, the line between empathy and sympathy can seem blurred. You can think of sympathy as too much empathy.
What does that mean?
Empathy allows you to identify with the customer’s issues without being affected by them yourself, while sympathy can cause you to take up their emotions personally. As a result, you may not be in the best position to solve their problems. This can appear unprofessional and harm the company’s image.
How can you make sure you care enough for the customer without getting carried away?
You can rely on some best practices to show the right amount of empathy in customer service.
How do you show empathy in customer service?—Best practices and examples
Customer service reps get a lot of opportunities to show empathy in their interactions everyday.
You may be addressing a customer in times of a crisis, such as when they are unable to order essential medication during a pandemic. You may have to exhibit extreme patience and gentleness with customers who may not speak your language well and have trouble understanding you. Or you might need to go out of the way and make an exception for select customers, such as offering an EMI or a discounted price to a loyal customer who is struggling financially at the moment.
So how do you do it? These best practices will make it easier for you.
- Listen actively. Pay attention to what the customer is saying and let them finish talking before suggesting a solution. Don’t listen to respond. Listen to understand their problem well and half your battle is won.
- Validate the customer’s emotions. Acknowledge the customer's feelings and show that you understand their perspective. This can be as simple as saying "I can understand why you would feel that way" or "I'm sorry that you're upset."
- Show genuine interest. Ask open-ended questions and take the time to really listen to the customer's responses. This will help you understand their concerns and needs more fully and come up with a fitting solution.
- Use empathetic language. Use language that shows you understand the customer's perspective and are there to help them. For example, instead of saying "There's nothing we can do anymore," try saying "I understand that this is frustrating. Let's see what we can do to help."
- Offer a feasible solution. Once you have fully understood the customer's issue, try to offer a solution that addresses their needs and concerns to the greatest extent possible. This can sometimes mean digressing from textbook solutions and coming up with an alternative that fits better.
- Follow up. After resolving the issue, check in with the customer to make sure they are satisfied with the outcome and to see if there is anything else you can do to help. This shows you truly care about them as people and not just as tickets to resolve.
By following these best practices, you can build trust and rapport with your customers, which can lead to a positive customer experience.
Positive statements and phrases to show empathy in customer service
To make your job even easier, here is a list of over 25 positive statements and phrases that can help you empathize with your customers.
1. Empathy statements for beginning a customer service conversation
The beginning of your customer service conversation will set the tone for the entire exchange. It’s imperative that you get it right. Use the following empathy statements to ease into the chat or phone call and make your customers feel comfortable and reassured.
"Hi [first name], we’re glad you reached out to us about this! We’ll do our best to help you.”
“Thanks so much for chatting with us today, [first name]. How can we help you?”
“Welcome to [company/brand name]! We’d love to help you. Could you please share your [email address] to help us get started?”
“Good [morning/afternoon/evening]! How are you today? Please let us know if you’re facing any problems and we’d be happy to help.”
“Hello [first name]! Welcome to [company/brand name]. What would you like to discuss today? Let me know and I'll do my best to help.”
Recommended reading: 40+ customer service live chat scripts and examples
2. Empathy statements for showing an understanding of customer issues
What’s the one thing a disgruntled customer wants even more than a redressal of his problem? A chance to express their frustration and be heard. As customer service reps, you shouldn’t take their anger or disappointment personally. If you respond with empathy and kindness, they’ll likely cool down and be prepared to talk rationally.
Here are a few neutral canned responses that can help.
“I understand that this is a tough situation for you to be in. I’ll make sure we do our best to resolve the [issue] as quickly as possible.”
“I hear how upset you are and I am really sorry you’re feeling this way. Please allow us to make it up to you.”
“I would feel the same way if I were in your place. I understand how hard it must be for you.”
“I hear you, [first name]. Your concerns are valid. And I apologize for the inconvenience you’ve had to face.”
“Just to make sure I’ve got everything—you’re experiencing [issue] with [product/service] since [date/time]. Is that right?”
3. Empathy statements for reassuring your customer
Customers can feel lost, confused, or even scared when a product or service doesn’t work the way it is expected to. The priority in such cases should be to reassure the customer and only then proceed to offer them a resolution.
Here are a few empathy statements to help you do that.
“You are absolutely right. Your [issue] is a priority for us. Rest assured, our team is looking into the matter as we speak.”
“Our customers’ happiness is our top priority. We’ll do everything we can to make this right.”
“We’re committed to providing only the best experience to each one of our customers. Please hold on for a moment as we look into the issue.”
“I see the problem and have escalated the issue to my supervisors. We should have a solution for you shortly.”
“We’ve managed to isolate the issue with [your billing]. Our team should be able to resolve this for you within a maximum of  hours.”
4. Empathy statements for dealing with rude or angry customers
Sometimes, you’ll need to tell a customer off and refuse an unreasonable demand. Sometimes, there’s not much you can do except say sorry for the lack of a solution. Some customers may not accept these unfavorable responses well.
You can use the following phrase to placate rude and angry customers without sounding hostile.
“Please be mindful of your language while talking to our team. We would be able to resolve your issue only if you maintain respectful communication.”
“We would appreciate it if we all could communicate calmly and professionally.”
“You’re right—you should’ve received an email informing you of the [policy change]. We’re really sorry for the error and will make sure it doesn’t repeat itself in the future.”
“We understand that you’re angry. But our team would be unable to help you further if you continue using a disrespectful tone with our reps.”
“We would appreciate your patience and understanding while our team works to fix the issue for you as quickly as possible.”
5. Empathy statements for ending a customer service conversation
All’s well that ends well, isn’t it? The following empathy statements will ensure that your conversations with your customers end on the best possible note and leave them with a positive impression of your brand.
“Thank you for chatting with us today. We hope that your issue has been fully resolved. If you have any further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. Have a great day!”
“Thank you for using our live chat service, [customer name]. I am now closing this chat. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us again. Have a pleasant day ahead!”
“Hey [customer name], it appears that you are no longer available to chat. If you have any further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. I am now closing this chat. Have a great day!”
“Thanks for contacting us, [customer name]. If you experience further issues, you can contact us via [email] or [phone number] as well. Our customer service team is available 24/7 to assist you. You can also visit our website for additional information and support resources.”
“Thank you for chatting with us today. If you still have questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out to us again. You may also want to try our self-help resources [list of resources] or contact us at [contact information]. See you!”
Most of the above empathy statements can be used with slight modifications across support channels including live chat, email, telephone, as well as social media. In order to make them handy for the entire customer support team, such responses should be documented and stored in a central location or knowledge base. This ensures a quick and easy retrieval plus brings consistency in messaging across the board.
Adding empathy statements to OSlash for excellent customer service
When it comes to providing excellent customer service, empathy delayed is empathy denied. While the emotion itself is not something you can call upon at will, there is a way to summon empathy statements to your fingertips instantly.
Meet OSlash text expander—a productivity suite that lets you convert your most-used words, phrases, sentences, and even full-blown paragraphs into quick shortcuts.
The result? You can get away with typing a simple shortcut — o/hi — and it will automatically expand into: "Hi [customer name]. Thanks for chatting with us. How may we assist you today?”
OSlash lets you designate abbreviations of your choice for as many such snippets as you want and even customize them with a rich-text editor. Add not just text formatting but also placeholders or variable values, images, and macros to personalize your messages and show the customer that you truly care about their problems.
Excellent customer service is just one download away. Get started with OSlash today!