The Big “E” – Do You Have It For Your Customers?

Here are a few things to consider when expressing empathy and integrating it into your company culture.

When speaking with leaders within the customer service industry, there is one comment that is repeated often: “I just wish I could get my people to show more empathy toward our customers.”

Empathy is the big “E” word in customer service. One’s ability to sincerely interject this trait into customer service practices is critical. It’s important to properly express empathy when customers are upset or angry with your company’s products or services. Here are a few things to consider when expressing empathy and integrating it into your company culture:


  • How Would I Feel?

    Empathy is the art of putting one’s self in another person’s shoes. Ask yourself, “If I were in this situation, how would I feel?” The action of mentally pausing to consider this question allows you to “feel” what the other person is actually experiencing. When customers are unhappy, upset or disgruntled, they usually just want someone to listen to and acknowledge their situation. When customers feel “heard”, more often than not their level of discontentment is reduced. It’s important to place yourself in the customer’s shoes!

  • What Would I Expect?

    When exercising your empathy, it should be natural to ask yourself: “What would I expect as a resolution if I were experiencing this situation?” If you know what you would expect, examine options for the best way to resolve the customer’s situation. Should your customer service options not include what you feel incorporate them and ensure customers are satisfied with your resolutions. When customers feel that you’ve provided the optimal solution for their situation, the chances of retaining them as customers are greatly improved.

  • Would I Trust Me?

    When assisting an unhappy, upset or disgruntled customer, exercising empathy helps to build rapport and establish trust. Think about it … if someone is indifferent towards your situation, how can you trust that they will put forth their best efforts to provide the appropriate resolution? Ask yourself, “How can I get this person to know that I understand and truly empathize with their situation?” Once the customer feels that you are sincere when exercising empathy, they are more than likely to accept the offered resolution.

  • Am I Listening?

    In order to empathize with others, you must first be willing to listen to their story. Utilizing effective listening skills is paramount to ensure your customers feel that you are being empathetic. It’s pretty easy for customers to determine if you’re really paying attention to what they’re saying when face to face.

    So, when you are dealing with customers in-person, be sure to maintain eye contact to assure the customer that you’re focused on them. Watch your body language and facial expressions as these are also indicators of how you truly feel about the situation.

    When you are on the phone with customers, voice tone and inflections provide assurance that you are listening. Allow the customer to get their whole story out before attempting to offer a solution. Interject with ” I understand your frustration” or “I too would be unhappy if in this situation.” When the customer pauses (while voicing their displeasure) use these indicators to assure the customer that you are, in fact, listening. Then restate the customer’s issue to confirm. Effective listening skills are the foundation for empathizing with customers. Remember, more listening and less talking leads to customer retention.

Ultimately, employing the art of empathy can be the difference in one’s attempt to retain an angry customer and losing their confidence and potential referrals. Empathize sincerely by asking yourself: How would I feel?, What would I expect?, Would I trust me? and Am I listening?


Speaker, author and customer service expert Errol Allen provides practical advice and solutions garnered from over 25 years of hands – on experience. He possesses a multifaceted perspective of organizations through the various positions held during his corporate tenure. From the phone to the field, Errol has serviced customers himself and understands that a “systems” orientation is crucial to providing excellent customer service. In his quest to acknowledge the receipt of great customer service, Errol personally awards his “Now That’s Customer Service!” award to deserving employees and companies. Get your copy of Errol’s new book – “Keys To Delivering Amazing Customer Service!” Connect with Errol on Twitter.


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