The Role of Empathy in Providing Exceptional Customer Service Online
Thursday 16th November
by Beth Perrin
The Role of Empathy in Providing Exceptional Customer Service Online
Thursday 16th November 2023
Empathy, which is the ability to sense others’ emotions, acknowledge their perspectives and envision what they’re thinking or feeling, is a highly important part of customer service - in fact, 96% of consumers view empathy as essential in customer support interactions. However, 59% of them believe that companies have lost touch with the human element of customer experience, suggesting that many businesses could be doing better in this area. Failing to empathise with a customer and being incapable of understanding their situation can cost your brand a significant share of revenue, and will likely cause customers to turn to competitors who are offering superior experiences instead.
Read on to discover the role of empathy in providing exceptional customer service online and find out whether your brand is doing enough to make customers feel supported and understood.
Focus on Listening
Listening is one of the most important skills a customer service agent can have and is a key part of demonstrating empathy. Read your customers’ messages carefully and take note of everything they’ve said, making sure not to skim over any details. Failing to read an enquiry or complaint properly can result in the wrong solution being offered or the customer being passed to the wrong department.
Reading back through the message history is especially vital when continuing a conversation that was previously handled by another one of your representatives. 75% of consumers say they find it frustrating when they have to repeat themselves during a customer service transaction, so before sending a response, always check that your colleague hasn’t already requested certain details or addressed some of the customer’s concerns earlier in the chat. Having to repeat information can leave customers wondering if they’ve really been listened to, and can make them feel like they’re going round in circles instead of reaching their desired outcome - leading to further annoyance and dissatisfaction.
Avoid Chatbots and AI Responses
One of the worst ways to show empathy online is to make your customers speak to a robot instead of a real person when they contact your brand - particularly when they need to raise a serious issue or complaint. Despite the undeniable advances in AI technology, chatbots are of course still unable to feel real human emotions and therefore can’t truly empathise with real-life situations, leaving customers feeling disregarded and disappointed. CGS’ Customer Service Chatbot Channel Survey revealed that:
• 86% of consumers prefer interacting with a human over a bot
• 71% of consumers say they would be less likely to use a brand if they knew it didn’t have real customer service agents available
• 50% of consumers believe that chatbots and virtual assistants make it harder to get their issues resolved
Here at 3sixfive, we’re all about the human approach, so if you’re struggling to keep up with your brand’s incoming social media comments and messages, consider outsourcing your customer service and community management to our team of experts instead of handing these processes over to an unreliable chatbot that may cause customer churn and could damage your reputation.
Empathy Helps Build Trust
Empathy can help you foster trust and build a positive relationship with your customers - that’s why almost 90% of people say they trust companies whose customer service they rate as ‘very good’, vs just 16% for companies rated as ‘inferior’. When customers feel heard and understood, they’re more likely to be satisfied with the service they receive and will feel like they’re in safe hands.
Demonstrating empathy shows your customers that their concerns are valid and that your brand genuinely cares about finding a solution that meets their needs. This can lead to higher customer loyalty, a better brand reputation, and even increased advocacy, as customers are more likely to recommend a company that provides them with a positive experience. It also has the power to turn casual shoppers into returning customers, with 93% of consumers agreeing that they are likely to make repeat purchases from companies who offer excellent customer care.
Use Your Own Experiences to Generate Empathy
It’s highly likely that you and your team members have all been in your customers’ position at some point, which can help you empathise with them when they’re faced with an issue. Think of a time when you needed to contact a company with an enquiry or complaint of your own, and ask yourself the following questions:
• What were your expectations during that interaction?
• How did the customer service agent speak to you?
• Did the interaction go positively or negatively?
• What did they do right and what would you change?
Then, use the outcome of this experience to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If the conversation went well and you were satisfied with the way that brand handled your situation, replicate its approach when talking to your own customers. Conversely, if the interaction went badly, make sure to avoid the methods they used so your customers don’t end up having the same experience as you. After all, a massive 91% of consumers will switch to a different company after just one instance of bad customer service.
Empathy Statements to Use With Your Customers
When providing customer support online, it can be a little harder to convey empathy than it is when speaking to a customer face-to-face. This is because body language, tone of voice and facial expressions all play a major part in showing a customer that you’re listening and that you care about what they have to say. As a result of this, it’s especially important to be mindful of the words and phrases you choose to include in your responses on social media and other communication channels, and always double check that your messages aren’t going to come across as sarcastic or dismissive before hitting send.
Here are some examples of empathy statements to use online that can reassure customers and make them feel heard:
• “I’m/We’re sorry to hear that this has happened.”
• “I/We understand how frustrating that must be.”
• “Thank you so much for your patience.”
• “I’m/We’re disappointed to hear about this.”
• “I/We completely understand your frustration/concern.”
• “I/We would love to help you resolve this.”
Sometimes customers don’t necessarily expect the problem itself to be solved straight away - they simply want to talk through what happened and feel seen by your brand, which is why empathy statements are so valuable. Even if you’re unable to rectify the situation immediately, showing kindness and understanding will go a long way in reassuring customers and putting them at ease.
Overall, brands who prioritise empathy within their customer service approach are much more likely to have satisfied and loyal customers than those who respond slowly, are impolite and use an uncaring tone of voice. Your support reps and community managers can demonstrate empathy by actively listening to customers, using mindful language, being patient and considerate, and offering personalised solutions to their enquiries. If you’re concerned about your brand’s current standard of online customer service and feel that your responses are lacking that all-important human touch, contact us to find out how we can provide social media assistance on your behalf.
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