Showing empathy to customers takes more than words, it also
It's not enough to utter a few well meant clichés, hoping
this will placate an upset or angry customer. People working in
customer service need to make the mental stretch and try to
imagine what it is like to travel in the customer's shoes.
When a customer is aggrieved or has had a negative experience,
the most important thing for them is to feel that their point of
view has been heard and understood.
The worst thing that can be done is to fob the customer off with
a few pat expressions, or not take their grievance seriously at
Even if all the right things are being said, a poor tone of
voice can result in poor customer service. Therefore it's
important that the customer can feel genuine sympathy when they
speak to a customer service representative.
The customer might not always be right. Indeed, sometimes the
customer may be very much in the wrong. For example, a missed
payment on a credit card may have put an account into arrears,
resulting in a declined purchase at a busy store. An
embarrassing situation is the unhappy result.
Suddenly the customer calls in a rage, feeling humiliated.
The job here is not to tell the customer that they are to blame
for having missed making
the payment on time, but to try to understand their emotions and
respond to them.
Often in this situation, where a late payment on an account
has resulted in credit being abruptly cut off, the customer can
feel belittled and reduced. These feelings need to be addressed,
allowing the customer to feel like they have been heard and
their negative experience is understood.
It takes character on the part of the service provider to keep
calm when confronted with an angry customer. The very human
response is to be
defensive, and return aggression with aggression. Employees need
to be trained to control their emotions, to take a step
back, breathe deeply, and let the unhappy customer get
everything off his or her chest.
The three main points to remember when serving an angry or upset
- Listen quietly and carefully to their complaints, without interrupting.
- Remain polite and respectful, no matter how hostile the
- Maintain a sympathetic and even tone of voice. Never raise
In most circumstances, a customer who is rude but only
receives civility and understanding in return, will find it
difficult to keep up his or her aggressive behavior. It's hard not
to feel ill-mannered when you are continually being treated
decently and with respect.
Empathy Statements for Customer Service Representatives
The following are helpful empathy statements that can be used to
diffuse potentially explosive customer service situations.
"We always appreciate customers who take the time to give us
their feedback. I'll pass what you've said onto our management
"Thanks for alerting us to the bad service you have received.
What can I do to help fix the situation?"
"I'm sorry you've had such a bad experience. I'd like to try and
"I can completely understand. If that happened to me I'd be
really upset too. I can imagine how frustrating that must be."
"What's happened to you is unacceptable and against company
policy. Let me consult a supervisor to see if there is anything
extra we can do to
"It's perfectly understandable that you're very upset about
"The same thing happened to me only recently, so I can see why
you're angry. It's a terrible inconvenience. Let me try and see
what I can do to
rectify the problem."
"We don't like to see our customers upset and inconvenienced. We
always strive to create a positive customer experience."
Working with angry or upset customers requires a high
sensitivity to other people's feelings, even when the customer
is in the wrong. By not taking abuse personally, taking a step
back mentally, and striving to understand why a customer feels
humiliated or wronged, a dissatisfied customer can be turned
into a satisfied one.
About the Author
Chris Saliba is a freelance writer with 10 years experience in
the financial services sector. Read more of Chris's business and
workplace articles at: