5 Ways to Show Empathy in Customer Service

Weronika Masternak

Weronika Masternak

13 min read
May 23, 2024

Picture this: a customer reaches out with an issue but feels frustrated by the generic responses and the prolonged support process. An interaction without a sense of being valued leads to a decline in customer retention. What you need is a pinch of patience and… empathy.

Empathy is essential for meaningful customer service interactions and long-term customer relationships. Being on good terms with your customers enhances their satisfaction and diffuses tense situations.

Studies indicate that 80% of consumers change brands due to negative customer experiences, with poor customer service being the primary reason for the switch. That’s why you must acknowledge your audience’s concerns and empathize with them to impact their future purchase decisions and positive brand experience.

But what is empathy anyway?

Empathy (perspective-taking) is the ability to affirm a customer’s feelings and relate to their emotions and thoughts. It’s like putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding their point of view to better support them. Honestly, it’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth the effort to reflect genuine care and consideration for customers.

So, how does empathy facilitate customer service? How can you infuse it into your interactions to build trust and rapport? Can it really transform your transactions into heartfelt connections? Let’s find out.

Why empathy matters in customer service

Customers want to be listened to. The sense of being heard and understood is a basic human need. Your customers are real people with emotions, personalities, and feelings. They can get annoyed, angry, or frustrated with you and your company’s service. 

When it happens, try to help your customers who are lost in emotions and unable to be receptive without being judgmental. Don’t treat them as numbers or statistics – understand how they feel. Observe the situation from their perspective to build friendlier relationships, manage conflicts, and boost loyalty. 

The benefits are numerous, including:

1. Improved customer satisfaction 

Empathetic service exceeds customer expectations and offers personalized solutions for their concerns. It can boost business satisfaction scores, leading to loyal customers who are likely to stick around.  

Satisfaction can also reduce customer churn and improve retention rates. Statistics indicate that investing in new customers is 5–25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones. Also, a 5% improvement in retention rate can increase your profit by 25-95%. Improving customer experience can reduce their chances of getting frustrated and leaving for a competitor.

2. Enhanced trust and rapport

Your customer service agents are the face of your brand, and their empathetic interactions can build brand trust and positive sentiment. HubSpot research shows that 93% of customers make repeat purchases with companies offering great customer service.

Also, practicing empathy can trigger emotional bonds with your customers and impact their purchase behavior. The stronger ties will lead to repeat purchases, driving your sales and revenue.

3. Effective conflict resolution

Empathetic customer service involves a genuine desire to fix people’s issues by gaining insights into their emotions. Your customer service representative can provide personalized solutions and diffuse tense situations by empathizing with upset customers.

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It’ll de-escalate the situation and create a conducive problem-solving environment. The positive interaction will also prevent complaints and negative reviews on online platforms.

4. Positive word-of-mouth

Happy customers stay for a long time and spread the word among others. Customer empathy also persuades consumers to spread positive sentiment and promote your company on public forums, which attracts new leads. They’ll become brand advocates who recommend your business to friends, family, and colleagues.

At the end of the day, it’s all about how the interaction makes your customers feel. There might be no resolution in a few cases, but you can offer a better experience by understanding their feelings. Deploy empathy in support actions, and you can attain tangible benefits that can revolutionize your business.

Reasons why empathy matters in customer service

How to show empathy to your customers

Showing empathy in customer service is a skill that you can develop and refine over time. Depending on the conversation medium, you need to understand the customer’s issue and feelings through words, body language, tone of voice, and other cues. 

For example, you can gather customer insights and use situational empathy to see customers differently, all to create meaningful customer relationships. Here are some ways to accomplish this:

1. Active listening

Active listening is the foundation of empathetic service, enabling customer service reps to better understand the issue and customer’s perspective. 

Customers aren’t always good at explaining things in detail, and you need to be reflective and engaged about what’s being said. Don’t just listen to what the customer is saying, but understand their emotions and underlying needs. Also, you must offer undivided attention without distractions for quicker issue identification and resolution.

Some key aspects for customer relationships in this regard include:

  1. Stay focused during the conversation, and don’t get distracted by external factors. Avoid multi-tasking or checking your emails, and maintain eye contact during video calls.

  2. Show interest in your speaker and empathize with the customer’s emotions. Use verbal and non-verbal cues and pay attention to tone of voice and body language. Gauge how the customer is feeling and validate their concerns.

  3. Refrain from interrupting or finishing sentences for them. Also, listen without judgment and set aside preconceived notions. Allow them to express themselves without fear of dismissal.

  4. Paraphrase and repeat the customer’s concern to understand their message correctly. Ask them to clarify, and don’t assume or guess the meanings if you’re unsure.

Askclarifying questions to gather information and show genuine interest in helping the customer. Respond appropriately by reflecting empathy through your tone of voice and words.

Components of active listening

If your interaction happens through email or any other channel, focus intently and respond thoroughly after digesting the message. Improve yourself with daily practice and use the tips in your daily interactions while offering successful customer service.

2. Using affirmative language

Language holds immense power in shaping the emotional tone of customer service interaction. Most people reaching out to CSRs are frustrated or upset, and you need to adopt affirmative language to deal with them and stay in control of your conversation.

While talking, you need to express the validity or truth of a bare assertion and show agreement with the customer in a hopeful, supportive, and encouraging manner. Customers will feel validated when you use positive language.

Example: tell the customers what you can do for them instead of what you can’t. Replace the negative phrases with workable solutions, and highlight the actions the particular action you’ll take.

Negative and positive expressions in affirmative language.

Positive communication can induce cooperation instead of argument or confrontation. Choose your “empathy phrases” that convey empathy, care, and understanding. It’ll then create positive customer experiences and strong relationships, driving business success.

3. Personalizing interactions

Personalize your customer service interactions, acknowledge each customer’s uniqueness, and address their preferences. Understand their distinct histories and requirements by gaining historical data through the CRM system. It can include your customer’s name, past brand interactions, demographics, and purchasing behavior.

You can map out the customer journey to make them feel valued. Go the extra mile to improve retention rates and customer engagement. Statistics reveal that 77% of customers pay more to brands offering personalized solutions.

Some strategies for personalizing customer service conversations include:

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4. Acknowledging and addressing emotions

Understanding emotions is essential for a user-centric customer service approach. Some of your customers may be calm, objective, and rational, while others can be volatile, subjective, or emotional. Few may be open, friendly, and expressive, while others may be guarded, reserved, and formal.

You must address your approach after assessing your customers’ emotional intelligence. You can utilize verbal and non-verbal cues like tone of voice, choice of words, and language used by the customer. Also, observe the customer’s body language, facial expressions, and gestures.

Then, adapt your communication style to match their preferences and needs. For example, use data, logic, and facts if your customer is rational and objective. Use stories and examples for emotional customers and show professionalism and courtesy for reserved customers.

If you encounter customers who are upset, angry, or frustrated, you need to actively listen to them and defuse the situation. Some strategies in this regard include:

Top ways to defuse customer frustrations.

Recognize the emotional cues in customer communications and respond with empathy and compassion. It’ll strengthen customer relationships and enhance their overall experience.

5. Follow-up actions

Following up with your customers can demonstrate an ongoing commitment and show interest in building a relationship. It can ensure customer satisfaction, boost sales, and increase the size of your customer base. Also, it’ll reinforce the company’s dedication to empathetic resolution and leave a lasting positive impression on the customer.

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You can use phone calls, text messages, emails, social media platforms, or customer portals to reach out to your customers. Some examples of follow-up actions include:

Express gratitude

You can send a simple message to thank them for their patience and understanding. Personalize the message and address any other concerns or questions they may have.

Ask for feedback

You can send a feedback form or survey to get insights into the customer’s experience and satisfaction level. Keep it precise and identify areas for improvement for your business success. Find out how to get customer feedback and measure satisfaction.

Customer survey example

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Personalized offers

As a gesture of goodwill, send personalized discounts or special offers to customers. Tailor them based on customers’ preferences or past purchases to make them relevant and impactful.

Personalized offer example


Educational resources

Share a knowledge base and helpful tips related to the recent issue with your customers. They can be articles, tutorials, or FAQs guiding the brand’s product.

Help center example

Commemorate occasions

Contact your customers on holidays, anniversaries, or other special occasions to show them you care. Offer premium features like priority access or expedited shipping for a day with no extra cost.

Maintain open lines of communication with customers and check periodically to see how they are doing. Engage with them on social media and show appreciation to foster loyalty and advocacy in the long run.

Empathy training for customer service teams

Equip your support agents with the skills and mindset needed to deliver empathetic service. Try empathy training exercises, sessions, and examples to prepare your staff for quick customer interactions.

Examples of empathy training activities

Also, group activities should be used to strengthen the empathetic skills of teams, as they will help them to learn from different perspectives. Some examples of training activities include:

Feedback sessions

Share regular feedback to CSRs based on customer interactions. Use recorded calls or customer feedback surveys to identify areas for improvement and offer constructive guidance on enhancing empathetic communication skills.

Role-playing exercises

Use simulated customer interactions to practice empathy. Assume the roles of both customers and CSRs to gain firsthand experience in empathetic listening, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. For example, play bingo with empathetic statements to increase awareness of the language you’re using.

Case studies and scenarios

Present real-life case studies and scenarios to highlight common customer situations and emotions. Then, encourage your employees to analyze them, identify emotional cues, and devise empathetic responses to address customer concerns.

Defending unreasonable requests

Practice viewing unreasonable requests from the customer’s perspective and try role-playing to handle the situation in a professional and caring manner. Play in pairs and recall unusual customer requests. Then, justify them and create scenarios about potential solutions.


Conduct workshops on active listening sessions, communication techniques, and emotional intelligence development. They can hone their skills to convey empathy and offer strategies to respond to customers’ emotions effectively.

Empathy workshop activity example


Invest in empathy training initiatives to create positive customer service experiences and drive long-term success. Leadership also fosters a culture where empathy isn’t just a skill but a principle in every interaction.

For example, leadership sets the tone for organizational culture and serves as a role model for empathetic communication. When leaders actively listen to employees, demonstrate empathy, and prioritize customer satisfaction, they inspire employees to do the same.

Also, leaders should recognize and reward customer-centric achievements. Whether through formal recognition programs, incentives, or praise in team meetings, they can reinforce the importance of empathy in driving positive customer experiences and business outcomes.

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Practicing empathy within customer service teams can greatly impact your customer satisfaction, loyalty, and business success. You can build stronger customer connections and differentiate yourself in a competitive market.

To show empathy to customers, organizations can consider workshops, role-playing exercises, feedback sessions, and leadership support to foster an empathetic service culture.

HelpDesk, with its comprehensive features and tools, serves as a valuable ally in this process. It can facilitate seamless communication between support agents and customers to quickly address their inquiries and issues. Also, the ticket management system ensures that every customer case is logged, tracked, and prioritized, streamlining the support team’s operations.

The AI-based features further optimize support processes and feedback collection capabilities to gather valuable customer data. The outreach tools help in dedicated customer engagement, deriving maximum value from the product or service.

Empathy remains a timeless and invaluable asset for developing meaningful connections and exceptional experiences. Focus on building a customer-centric culture where every interaction is infused with care, understanding, and responsiveness for your business success!