Getting Started with Empathy in Customer Support


Getting Started with Empathy in Customer Support

When you are involved in customer support, I believe that you may wonder if there is one skill that you must have.

After asking around many customer support agents this question, “Empathy” is the word that is most commonly emphasized.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability for someone to understand and share the feelings of another. It is the action of putting yourself in other’s shoes and seeing the problem from their point of view. Customers need your understanding of how they feel about the product or service.

In customer service, empathy is essential and important to serve your customers. Most failed cases in customer service are due to their lack of empathy towards the customers.

Being empathetic towards someone doesn’t mean that you agree with their point of view or action. It just means that you understand their situation. Customers love it when you understand how they feel, especially when they face an issue that is related to your brand, product or service.

As a support agent, empathy is an important character trait to have. Definitely, you have to face different kinds of customers every day, listen to their complaints, emotional outburst, etc. and to solve their problems. So, treat your customer service agents better.

5 Benefits of Empathizing

You may wonder if it is really so important to spend time and effort empathizing with every single customer when you can spend that time effectively to solve several issues.

Let us tell you how empathy in customer service support benefits your business.

Understand Your Customers Better

One thing you have to remember is customer support is all about people. When you are able to understand your customers well, you can support them better and increase their satisfaction level. Your customer needs your understanding, not your excuses. Practising empathy every day will help you serve your customers better and also build a good relationship with them.

Notice Things that are Unsaid

With Empathy, your customers will not need to spell out any single word about their needs and feelings. You will be able to guess what motivated them to approach you based on their situation, body language, voice, and tone. When you are able to help them based on what their needs are before they spell out, customers will appreciate your service. At the same time, it gives customers strong confidence in your brand.

Dealing Easily with Conflicts

You can resolve customer conflict and make them feel that you understand their problem. Customers will know that you are putting yourself in their situation and helping them resolve conflicts. It can be a good experience when your support team has a chance to assist customers who are angry with your services.

Invoking Empathy from Customers

I understand that there are a lot of hard conversations in helpdesk to support your customers. It is difficult to say no to your customers or tell them that they need to pay you more to use a feature.

In such a case, a lack of empathy will make your customers mistrust your intentions. Instead, if you try to understand their point of view well, it is easier for you to gain their trust and convince them.

Predicting Customer Action & Reaction

When you are able to empathize with your customers, you will be able to predict how the customer will react and proactively answer their questions. When you reply to them through helpdesk, you will be able to predict what they will feel on reading your answers.

At the same time, you are able to understand what is holding you back from implementing alternative solutions. It is easier in conversation on a live chat or tickets to help them understand these things.

Identifying an Empathy Problem

You may notice that some customer service interactions make you feel so happy even when you didn’t get what you want in the end. As a customer, you feel lucky enough to talk with an empathetic customer support representative on phone call or live chat.

Those interactions are usually rare because some customer service support teams are suffering from a lack of empathy. There are 5 classic signs of lack of empathy:

  • Mismatch of Tone (between agent and customer) – One of the parties is too formal and another one is too informal.
  • Late responses without an apology to the customer.
  • Agents with somebody else’s problems syndrome – Issues getting deflected to other departments without any explanation or follow-up after that.
  • Discouraging the customers from contacting support team, through words or behavior
  • Lack of customer satisfaction.

If these signs are happening on your customer support team’s interactions with customers, you may need to come up with the solution to solve the empathy problem of your agents.

Nobody is perfect and born with empathy. Train and Encourage your support team to practise empathy when interacting with customers.

6 Ways to Develop Empathy in Customer Service

Understand Your Biases

I believe we always instinctively make judgments based on our mother language, skin colour, gender, religion, accent, and vocabulary. We might not be aware that we are acting out of bias and it will make us treat several customers differently.

For example, we may blame some customers who are not tech-savvy or aged. This bias will create a barrier between agents and customers. It is really harmful to your customer support services.

Recognize your biases first to develop empathy. When you want to assume something about someone with no data to support it, please contemplate and find out in more detail if that was because of a bias.

Understand your Customer Base

You should understand your customer base first so you will not think that they are overreacting to a problem when you think it should be a simple problem. You should understand that every customer is different in thinking about the problem that they face.

To cross this barrier, you need to figure out who your customers are and what your products or services mean to them. Think about your customer’s situation!

Trust me! You can really bridge the gap and cultivate empathy by considering their educational background, age, company, organization structure, etc.

Reading Books or Other Activities you can do

Studies show that reading books of fiction has proven that it is able to increase empathy. If you do not really like to read, meeting with different kinds of people will also help develop empathy. Set a goal of meeting one new person every day. You may get a different perspective of each person and open up your world a little bit more.

An alternative way will be to do other activities such as volunteering, playing sports like badminton or football, joining some art class where you are quite literally walking in someone else’s shoes.

Let’s do some activities to increase empathy Today!

Maintain Positivity

It is easy to be empathetic to the first customer of the day, but are you able to treat the same way until dealing with the last customer? That’s why it’s important to learn to remain positive and motivated as a customer support agent.

Always present yourself in a good way to stay positive every day and every month. Note down your feelings either positive or negative and the events that trigger it. It will give you a clear idea about what you should avoid to remain positive throughout the day.

Collect Feedback from Your Peers and Customers

You will find it hard sometimes to objectively look at the way you deal with customers. So at the end of every conversation, you can ask open-ended questions to your customers like “What do you think would make this conversation better?” You can notice an empathy problem if your customers complain about not being heard or respected.

You can also get the opinion from your peers who get along well with the customers. You can ask them about how you can deal with customers better or how you should talk to the customer from their perspective. The most important thing is always receive the feedback with an open mind.

Teaching or Lecturing

Teaching is also a very good way to cultivate your empathy inside. Either you teach kids how to swim or guide your friend how to hike; both ways, it requires a lot of practice and patience. If you get an opportunity to share product or service knowledge with your new colleagues, take it up immediately. Especially, if you can teach your colleague how you offer support, you will be able to see what new customers struggle with. It will add to your perspective and increase the ability to feel empathy.

12 Ways to Show Empathy to Your Customers

Always LISTEN to your customers

Always let your customers talk first and actively listen to what they are saying. Do not jump to conclusions directly. Do not offer a solution when they are still talking about their problem. Respond to them with the same words they used with the solutions. If you are a live chat agent, wait for your customers to finish explaining their problem first. Sometimes, customers only want to be heard and their issues will be solved once they feel supported.

Give the Benefit of the Doubt to your Customers

Sometimes maybe your customers have a bad day, due to their job or a personal problem. Try to understand that it’s not personal if it feels like the customers are overreacting to something. You might not be able to help them with that but give them the benefits of the doubt. Always work under the assumption that this interaction is going to make their day better. Actively practise giving second chances.

Keep your Attitude in Check

Your job is to help your customers. Even though you have the urge to blame your customers for their mistakes, always remember not to expect their apology. It doesn’t mean you should let them walk all over you. You can be empathetic and stand your ground when you deal with some difficult customers.

Always Curious about your Customers

Customers will never appreciate when they never had a chance to explain the problem they are faced with. Expressing curiosity about how they faced the problem before they come to you isn’t good enough support. Instead of being offensive with your curiosity, it’s better to allow the customer to share useful information so that you can help them with it.

Look for Common Interests

Make some effort to build a strong relationship with your customers. Find out the common interests between you and your customers. Bring it up in your conversation. In the end, your customers will know that you can understand each other better and solve the problems easily. Always get more information about them through Exabytes Helpdesk Software that can help you to note down your customer info.

Be Respectful to Your Customers

Greet your customers by their name before you start your conversations. When the conversation takes a bad turn, it’s easy to forget manners. Even if you are standing up for yourself, remember not to put them down.

Read more: 6 Simple Tips to Write a Good Support Email

Make Customers a Part of the Solution

You may think the customer is being unreasonable sometimes when dealing with them. They might have a high expectation on the product or service which might not have been fulfilled to solve that customer’s problem. In such a case, Ask them what they think is the best solution to solve the problem. It will give them a chance to put themselves in your shoes instead of being against you.

Be Careful About the Language Barrier

You may not know someone who comes from a different culture or country while doing live chat support. You may assume based on your understanding and it can cause misunderstandings. Always alert the customer about these situations and try to make yourself as clear as possible. Use some emojis on your messages to express your real emotion if it comes down to it. I believe that many live chat software have built up a series of emoji collections for you.

Respond to the Customer’s Tone

Always respond to the customer’s tone so that your customers feel that you can understand their situation. You don’t have to give up your own or your company’s personality in the process. Just have a scale on formal and informal conversation mode that you and your customers feel comfortable with and pick a tone that’s between that scale.

Don’t Assume! Ask Them

Don’t make your own assumption that the customers would not know the simplest solution. Don’t ask them to refresh their screens or reboot their phones assuming they didn’t try this way yet. Always ask them if they have already done that. It will show that you are willing to troubleshoot their problem further. If you assume, not only will it make the process of solving customer issues longer, the customer will also feel like they are being rushed.

Avoid Sympathy

One thing you have to remember when you are expressing empathy is to avoid sympathy. For example, instead of saying “It must be frustrating”, you can say “I understand how frustrating it is”. Trying to be more personal also helps. Instead of saying: “The team will help solve the issues soon”, change it to “I am working with the team to solve your issues soon.” Customers will feel valued with tiny changes in the ways you express empathy.

Take their Side When They are Right

Don’t be afraid to take their side. When the fault is on your company’s side, go ahead and admit that “You’re right, we messed up. Thank you for your information”. Customers feel they are being heard and respect you and your company for it. They will be happy that you can accept your flaws and truly value your customer opinions.


You cannot always deliver the right solution but you can always deliver a good customer support service to your customers. Customers prefer a support agent who can really stand in their place and understand them. Let’s start being more empathetic to the customer Today!

You may also need better software for your support team for handling your customer enquiries. Try out Exabytes Helpdesk Today! Get 21-day Free Trial on Helpdesk Software Now!

Prashanthini Mande, A Guide to Empathy in Customer Service

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