Sometimes our customers are angry, or upset, or frustrated, and sometimes their feelings are justified. In this video, learn how and when to empathize with your customers to help move the conversation forward.
- Quiz time! What's the best thing a customer service agent can give a customer in an email? A, a printable coupon for 10% off. B, a free download. C, a super-sweet apology for a product that didn't work properly. D, none of the above. The answer is D, none of the above. The best thing we can give our customers in an email is our empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the customer's feelings.
Empathy shows we read their emails carefully, and we can see the situation from their point of view. Sympathy is I feel sorry that this happened to you, but empathy is I can understand why you were frustrated when this happened. I would be frustrated too. Now the question is, can you use both sympathy and empathy in an email to a customer? Sure, if the situation calls for it. For example if a customer emails to say that you shipped her the wrong sweater, and now she doesn't have a birthday gift for her mom, your response could combine sympathy and empathy this way.
I'm so sorry we sent you the wrong sweater. I can certainly understand why you were frustrated when you didn't have a birthday gift for your mother. There are three reasons empathy works very well in a customer service email. First, email is asynchronous. You're not talking face-to-face in real time. When you're on the phone with a customer or even in a live chat, it's easier for the customer to tell you care, and that you truly want to help solve the problem.
But you're not with the customer when you're replying to email, so you have to do a little extra work to convey your concern and sincerity. Showing empathy is a way to do this extra work. Another reason empathy works well in email is because many times people just want to know they've been heard. The difficult truth of being a customer service agent is we're often unable to solve a customer's problem or fix a broken product, so what can we do instead? We can dignify the customer's feelings by showing empathy.
Finally, showing empathy proves you read the customer's email. When you show empathy, you demonstrate that you read the customer's email closely. Empathy is specific. There's no such thing as form letter empathy. Once you develop an empathetic attitude, it's easy to write empathy statements, so first work on that attitude. When you write emails to customers all day every day, it's easy to lose your empathy.
Reading people's complaints for a living can cramp your empathy muscle, so the first thing you need to do is get your head on straight. Understand there's no risk to seeing things the customer's way. If a customer writes, I think your Super Healthy Energy Bar tastes like sawdust, you resist the temptation to argue back by writing, well most people find our energy bar delicious. Instead accept the customer's opinion.
See the purchase from his point of view. That customer was hungry. He went to the store. He spent 3.99 on your energy bar and didn't like the flavor. Show a little empathy and write, I wish you'd enjoyed our energy bar. It sounds like the whole wheat and wheat bran gave the bar a texture you didn't like. I've given you a handout with six ways to write an empathy statement. Download the handout and the exercise and practice writing empathy statements.
Then compare your empathy statements to the ones I've written on the answer sheet. When you start using empathy statements, you'll show your customers that you really do care.
- Reading emails carefully
- Anticipating follow-up questions
- Answering all of the customer's questions
- Handling difficult questions
- Explaining your process to the customer
- Paraphrasing the customer's situation
- Acknowledging the customer's feelings
- Apologizing when appropriate
- Avoiding clichéd language
- Demonstrating empathy and sincerity in your writing
- Building rapport