Empathy in Customer Service

Instructor: Allison Tanner
This lesson defines empathy and describes the use of empathy in customer service. It then discusses why empathy is an important component of customer service.

Empathy in Customer Service

Annie is teaching her new customer service representatives about empathy in the workplace. She starts out by explaining that empathy is the ability to understand and connect with someone's feelings. In customer service, empathy is the ability to affirm a customer's feelings and indicate that you can understand their pain or frustration, even if you cannot fix it.

Annie tells a story about Linda, a distraught customer whose credit card has been double charged, her ordered items came in the wrong size, and she has already called four times trying to resolve these problems. Although they can't go back in time and prevent this incident from occurring, they can show empathy. This is one of the most important reasons why empathy is necessary in customer service. Even if you cannot fix the problem, you can help the customer feel heard by showing empathy.

Empathy 'In Action'

Now imagine that Linda is speaking to a customer service representative and they respond to her issues saying, 'Wow, tough luck, I'll get you the right sizes and send you to the department that can fix your card.' In this statement, the issue has been addressed, but there isn't empathy or understanding of the frustrating experience Linda is going through.

Now, Linda might be grateful that part of the problem is being fixed, but she is probably still frustrated. Hearing something such as 'tough luck' can come across as rude and it seems like a lack of consideration for someone's feelings.

Instead of potentially frustrating a customer, using empathy can help improve the situation, increase customer satisfaction, and improve the customer experience. Instead of saying 'tough luck', they can show empathy by saying something like, 'I can see how frustrating this must have been and how upset you are. I assure you that I will do everything I can to fix this. Let me start by getting you the correct items and then putting you in touch with the payments department.'

This statement connects with Linda by saying, 'I can see how this must have been frustrating and how upset you are.' This statement also shows understanding and has helped Linda to feel heard.

Now, why is this so important?

Importance of Empathy

Going to the white board, Annie spells out customer service, and reminds the team that customer service is the process of providing services to customers. In general, empathy improves the quality of customer service because it establishes a connection or bond between the customer and the employee.

You can spend all day talking with customers who have had problems with the company. Some of their problems may or may not have a resolution, but you can always show empathy. In doing so you:

  • Help the customer feel heard
  • Acknowledge their feelings
  • Provide a good experience

Without empathy, the interaction can be cold and off-putting to customers, thus increasing the conflict.

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