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“Empathy” and “sympathy” are often used interchangeably, but that’s because many people are unfamiliar with their exact definitions. There is actually a major difference between the two, and it’s crucial for customer service support agents to understand the distinction.
To sympathize with someone means to feel sorry for them because of the problems they’re going through. But there’s a disconnect between you. The other person’s problems are their problems, not yours. You don’t relate to what they’re going through.
When you empathize with someone, you don’t just pity them: you feel their pain. You deeply understand their feelings, either because you’ve faced similar problems in your own life or you’re able to imagine what they’re like..
Empathizing with your customer is crucial to creating a pleasant or at least satisfactory customer experience. Unfortunately, most companies fall short in this arena. According to a recent study by PwC, 64 percent of consumers in the United States feel that “companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience.”
How did this happen? One reason is probably the increase in automation and robot-led chat support. Many times when a customer opens a chat support box on a company’s website, they don’t know if they’re talking to a robot or a human being.
But the thing is, customers prefer talking to a live agent, not a robot. In a survey conducted by TCN and released in 2021, 7 out of 10 consumers indicated that talking on the phone to a live agent was their preferred method of communication with customer service. 4 out of 10 prefer chatting online - again, with a live agent on the other end.
Clearly, human interaction and empathy are important to consumers. The simplest and best way to improve these two elements for your own company is to integrate empathy statements into your chat support conversations.
An empathy statement is a statement that a support agent uses to show they understand (or are attempting to understand) a customer’s problem. Using an empathy statement can also help you diffuse a tense situation where the customer is experiencing strong emotions, such as rage and impatience.
In this article, we’ll guide you through some common chat support situations where using empathy statements will be helpful. We’ll also cover some tips for support agents to write and use empathy statements, and at the end you’ll find 25 unique empathy statements which you can copy and paste for your personal or business use.
So, when is it appropriate to use an empathy situation?
The most common time to use it is when the customer on the other end of the chat support conversation is not happy. They may be merely unsatisfied, or they could be outright furious.
Deploying the correct empathetic statement whenever you think the customer is or is about to become unhappy, will help you diffuse their negative emotions. It will also help you understand their problem more clearly.
Below are 5 typical customer support situations where you may need to use an empathetic statement.
When a customer is irate due to a problem they perceive as your company’s fault (i.e., a faulty product or a delay in their order), they become very difficult to speak to. Letting them know that you hear them and that you understand and empathize with their problem, can go a long way to smoothing their ruffled feathers.
A customer who has had to wait a long time for a support agent to help them is usually not a happy customer. At worst, they will be angry, and at best, irritated. Acknowledging their wait time and apologizing will help you start out on the right foot with the frustrated and impatient person on the other end of the chat.
If you’re slow to respond to a support request from a customer, the customer is highly likely to become frustrated. Most people have busy schedules. Even when just five minutes of their time are wasted, those five minutes are too many.
Whatever you do, don't try to cover up or ignore your slow response time. Own up to it, explain the reason for it (i.e., "I'm researching this problem," or "I'm looking up the answer to your question"), and assure the customer that you understand their time is precious. That way, the customer knows that you haven’t forgotten about them, and that you are still working hard on their issue. Then they are no longer offended by the fact that you made them wait.
From time to time, you will probably offend a customer without intending to. Even though you do it accidentally, the customer may express anger because of your words. At this point, it is imperative that you apologize and reassure them with an empathetic statement that you respect them and did not mean to offend them.
A customer can become unpleasant when they realize that you’re not going to be able to fulfill their request. In a chat with such a person, who may say rude or angry things to you, sending them an empathetic statement lets them know that you understand their situation and their desire, and that you would be happy to help them if you could - but you can’t. This way, they know that you’re trying your best to please them and aren’t just brushing them off.
You must craft your empathy statements carefully if they are going to be effective.
An empathy statement must sound genuine, so that the customer knows that the live agent helping them truly cares about them. But it also shouldn’t distract from the goal of the conversation: to solve the customer’s problem.
Below are 4 tips to help you get started creating and using empathy statements for chat support.
One great element to incorporate into your empathy statement is gratitude toward your customer. Thanking them for being a customer of your company or for possessing a good quality such as patience will help them feel valued, which is a positive emotion. This positive emotion may help counteract some of their negative feelings, such as anger with how long you’ve made them wait.
When you’re writing your empathy statements, use language that sounds authentic. Remember, 4 out of 10 United States consumers prefer talking to a live agent through chat support. The language you use in your empathetic statements should leave no doubt in the customer’s mind that a real human being is helping them.
Keep your phrases friendly and flowing, instead of formal and stilted. For example, instead of saying, “I apologize for the lengthy delay,” say, “I’m sorry for the delay, thank you for waiting!” The latter looks and sounds much more like a real person wrote it, with its more informal “I’m sorry,” the expression of gratitude, and the exclamation point.
An easy way to make your empathetic statement more impactful is to express to the customer how you would feel in their shoes. This shows them that you care about their situation and that you comprehend how painful, annoying, etc. it is for them.
Remember that in most cases, customers just want to be heard. They want the support agent to listen to what they’re saying. They don’t want the agent to tell them to get over it, or to offer a bandaid to cover what is, in the customer’s eyes, at least, a much deeper wound.
Show the customer you’re really listening to them by imagining yourself in their position and empathizing with them that way.
Sometimes, a customer may be so upset that they leave out important details in their description of their problem. In this scenario, empathy statements can help you understand the customer and help them even more effectively. Simply use your empathy statement to repeat the customer’s issue back to them. For example, you can say, "I see the problem. It looks like you're experiencing XYZ, is that right?" This trick will help you gain clarification, as well as reassure the customer that you’re giving them your undivided attention.
Below are 25 empathy statements divided into five separate categories based on the common situations we covered earlier in this article.
This set of empathy statements is designed to help a support agent connect with and soothe a customer who is irate. Each one works to acknowledge the customer's problem and show them that you feel their pain, both of which help to calm down their strong negative emotions.
These empathy statements will help you get off on the right foot with customers who have been kept waiting for help from support. While some of them thank the customer for their patience and others include an outright apology, they all accomplish the same goal: acknowledge the difficulty of the wait time for the customer.
With this set of empathy statements, your goal is to show the customer that you feel their pain and how slow it is taking for you to respond. At the same time, though, you're reassuring them that the wait is necessary for you to do your job of helping them.
If a customer expresses to you that you have just offended them, you must respond quickly to let them know that it was a mistake and you did not mean to hurt their feelings. These empathy statements will help you convey a sincere and professional apology.
Using one of these empathy statements when you can't fulfill a customer's request will express your willingness to help them, but also the firmness of your initial answer.