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Whether the problems customers call about are large or small, they all need our empathy. They need us to infuse our emails, chats, and social media responses with words that demonstrate we understand what they are feeling, we see things from their point of view, and we care.
Empathy isn’t always easy, especially now. Some frontline customer service agents think it’s optional or even risky because it implies they agree with the customer’s complaint. And even the most empathy-willing analysts will struggle to show empathy when they’re overburdened.
To help, I’ve pulled together this list of 20 ways to empathize with stressed-out customers.
Please share these all-purpose empathy statements with your team:
1. “I would be upset, too.”
2. “I realize how complicated it is to…”
3. “I can imagine how frustrating that would be.”
4. “That would be disappointing, especially when [paraphrase the customer’s perspective or efforts]…”
5. “We want to understand what happened just as much as you do.”
6. “I can see why that made you angry.”
7. “This situation is unacceptable to us, too.”
8. “If I were in your situation, I would feel exactly the same way you do.”
9. “As a [insert parent, traveler, baseball fan, hay fever sufferer, etc.] myself, I understand why you contacted us today!”
10. “If I were in your situation, I would be asking the same questions you are.”
Sometimes it’s difficult to empathize because the customer’s emotions are waaaay over the top or their complaint is just plain wrong. In these situations, you may want to offer indirect empathy that focuses on validity of at least some of the customer’s behavior instead of the accuracy of their complaint:
11. “I can understand why you have followed up on this issue.”
12. “I do realize that the [insert task name] process can be time-consuming.”
13. “It certainly makes sense that you contacted me again to ask about this.”
14. “I’m so glad you let us know about this.”
Social media sometimes requires more abbreviated and less formal language. Here are five short-and-sweet empathy statements to use with customers via social media:
15. "Oh no!"
16. "That’s not right!"
17. "That’s not what we like to hear!"
18. "We’ve let you down, and we never want to do that."
19. "Yikes! That’s not how we want our customers to feel."
And finally, here is one last important piece of advice:
20. Reuse the customer’s own words. For example, if a customer complains that the adapter video cable they bought from your company was flimsy, use the word “flimsy” in your response. You’ll demonstrate that you’ve read the complaint carefully and your reuse of the customer’s words shows empathy for their perspective.
While sincere empathy comes from the heart, practical expressions of empathy in customer service situations can come right from this article. Most everyone in customer service has some innate level of empathy within themselves, and practicing the use of empathetic language can help build empathetic customer service skills in the long run.
Leslie O'Flahavan has delivered writing courses for support center staff, customer service agents, and social media managers, helping thousands of professionals hone their customer-focused writing skills. She helps support organizations train agents to write well in all service channels, measure the quality of their writing, and revise and maintain their entire library of canned answers. Leslie is the instructor of three writing courses for Lynda.com (LinkedIn Learning) and coauthor of Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents. Visit her E-WRITE website, follow her on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.