You, Me and Empathy

The Role Empathy Plays in Customer Service

By Kenora Dagon, Intern

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent waiting on hold listening to bad elevator music, just to get a crabby worker give me sassy one-word answers to all of my inquires. My main purpose for calling might be resolved by the end of the conversation but I often leave the discussion angry, annoyed and sometimes feeling even more frustrated than I was before. When we feel that we aren’t truly cared for, or that our feelings are just inconveniences for others, we have less of an inclination to support that business again. However, when individuals walk away with their needs met and the feeling that their problems actually mattered to the person they communicated with, it fosters a positive attitude and increased interest in interacting with that company again.

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It is easy to be that cranky person on the other end of the phone or conversation but it’s even easier to be a caring and personable human. The key to this is empathy. Placing yourself in others shoes to try to understand their feelings is important in all aspects of life and is equally important in the context of customer service.  Creating a strong bond and meaningful relationship with clients not only leads to loyalty but also to more referrals of friends and family and just a general better experience. Genuine compassion and caring are very notable qualities in a business, it distinguishes a fine establishment from a great establishment.

People immediately can sense sub-par customer relations. Not only is great customer service about finding the solutions to customers problems, it’s about making a person feel like part of the family. First step is just being human. How easy is that? All it takes is showing enthusiasm for others and being sincerely concerned for their wellbeing. Knowing how to respond kindly instead of with a monotone or robotic voice shows a sense of real humanness that people find warm and inviting. Just stopping for a second to considering what sort of response you might be looking for if you were in another person’s situation, can make the interactions much more positive. You are creating a relationship, not just trying to obtain revenue.


A fundamental factor to empathy is to actually listen to what a person is saying. Good listening skills can make a world of difference. Being engaged in a conversation means focusing on what they are saying but also reading between the lines and figuring out what they need that they aren’t say. These things demonstrate that you honestly care about a person’s situation and that you aren’t just zoning out or trying to end the conversation as soon as possible. It can be verbal and non-verbal actions such as simple as eye contact and body language or matching their tone when speaking with them. The ability to understand where a person is coming from can make you more proactive and be better at resolving conflicts. You can predict actions and reactions to an issue before they even happen simply by taking a step back, considering how they must feel, or what they might be thinking.

But empathy is a skill, some people are naturally empathetic and others need a little boost in the empathy department. Skills are meant to be worked on; no one is professional at being empathetic. If you make a conscious effort to look at the world through someone else’s eyes and strive to appreciate people who are different from you, it is possible to strengthen your empathy muscle. Just show a little extra love and understanding, and it will make a world of difference.

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