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5 Steps to Teaching Empathy to Customer Service Reps


dreamstime 11236243 empathyEmpathy, the art of seeing a situation through a customer’s eyes, is an essential component to a successful customer service culture. However, empathy doesn’t come naturally to everyone you hire to work in your call center or behind your counter. The good news is that empathy is also a skill that can be learned through a few simple steps. We have a path to empathy that will raise your customer service to a whole new level.

Define Empathy

Before you can expect your customer service reps to show empathy to customers, they need to understand exactly what empathy is. Empathy is not sympathy, where you simply feel bad about someone’s situation without doing anything about it. Empathy is not restricted to problem-solving, since a frustrated customer will want his feelings acknowledged before he is ready to accept your solution. Instead, empathy is the art of understanding and acknowledging a customer’s feelings and needs, before finding a solution that meets them. When a customer feels understood and cared about, he is better prepared to work with your company over the long haul.

Learn to Listen

There are different types of listening skills that people employ every day, but not all of them are the appropriate choice for customer service. Empathetic listening involves paying attention to a wide range of signals from the speaker, including the tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. This type of listening is imperative if you want your customer service reps to have a full understanding of the customer’s problem and provide the most effective and appropriate feedback to the customer.

Pass it Down

If you want your staff to show empathy to your customers, you must begin by showing empathy to your staff. Stand in your customer service rep’s shoes on occasion to understand just how stressful those shoes can be when working with customers every day. When a customer has to be referred higher up the ladder for additional assistance, make sure your managers are also well versed on how to show empathy so they can serve as an effective role model and example for the rest of your staff.

Build Rapport with Customers

To have empathy for another individual, it is important to have some sort of relationship with that person first. This doesn’t have to be terribly involved; a pleasant rapport with your customers is sufficient for setting that empathy machine in motion. Train your staff to exchange pleasantries with customers when they come into your office. Through easy conversation, your reps and customers will get to know one another enough that empathy will be a natural response when a customer comes in with a problem.

Try Team Building Exercises

There are plenty of good team building exercises to perform with your customer service reps for the purpose of building empathy. Listening games and role play activities allow employees to put what they learn in training sessions into practice and give them a chance to exercise their new empathy muscles before they actually put them to use with customers.

Empathy is an essential characteristic for any effective customer service team. By following these five steps, you can transform your customer service department into a caring, understanding and helpful branch of your business.

- Meredith Estep


Doing role playing exercises with your support staff will help keep their empathy skills sharp. Management must make sure training and practicing is ongoing to ensure success of the team!
Posted @ Tuesday, November 15, 2011 8:17 AM by Amanda
Listening is a simple skill that produces big results. By hearing their needs and defining a customized solution, the customer will, without question, appreciate that you have been empathetic.
Posted @ Tuesday, November 15, 2011 8:23 AM by Keri
Empathy is very important when working in customer service. In order to truly fulfill a customer's needs, you must learn to be empathetic to what they are asking for. Customer Service Representative must listen very carefully to what the customer is asking for, not only by listening to what they are saying, but how they are saying it.
Posted @ Tuesday, November 15, 2011 10:00 AM by Jenny
Customer rapport is extremely important to stress eary in the traning process. Customers will feel their needs are more important to the rep if the rep builds that rapport.
Posted @ Tuesday, November 15, 2011 10:05 AM by Kristy
I strongly believe in the quote: "To have empathy for another individual, it is important to have some sort of relationship with that person first." Building a basic friendly relationship will build trust and help resolve any future issues in a comfortable manner.
Posted @ Tuesday, November 15, 2011 10:15 AM by Brittni
Understanding and acknowledging a customer’s feelings and needs is so important and should be a priority for all CSR's to learn.
Posted @ Tuesday, November 15, 2011 11:06 AM by Lisa
Learning how to listen is critical for everything in life, especially good customer service.
Posted @ Tuesday, November 15, 2011 11:07 AM by Alan
Listening is the most important aspect of empathy and the only way to show genuine empathy.
Posted @ Wednesday, November 16, 2011 3:26 PM by Stacy
Hey Tiffani this is a good article for which you can do a demonstration during the pot luck next week
Posted @ Thursday, April 17, 2014 4:56 AM by Tiffani Pickett
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