How to Show Empathy in Chat Support

Empathy – We’ve heard of it, read blogs about it and at times have tried to consciously practice it to better ourselves. The term is often thrown around in discussions among the customer support community as a benevolent characteristic to aim for in support conversations. In fact, one-third of customers consider switching1 to a competitor after a bad customer service experience. And by ‘bad customer service’, we mean customer experiences that occur from a lack of empathy shown by the agent.

The good thing about chat support is that it largely puts an end to apathy by providing personalization and cutting down the wait time. But it is in the hands of the support agents to ensure the chat conversation remains empathetic and render quality support.

Types of Empathy

Empathy by itself is more than a mere feeling. It can be broken down into three types where you understand, share and take action to enrich the condition of the person you empathize with. Below are the three kinds of empathy with examples on how to use them for the benefit of chat support.

Cognitive Empathy: The ability to understand how a person would feel in a given situation.

Cognitive empathy comes from actively listening and acknowledging what the customers have to tell. Paraphrasing a customer’s complaint once they are finished helps both the agent and customer and ensures that they’re on the same page.

Emotional Empathy: The ability to share the feelings and connect with a person you empathize.

For example, stating that you too would be frustrated if you were in the customer’s position validates their discomfort on the issue. Moving further, the customer would be more accepting of the solution offered.

Compassionate Empathy: When you take action to soothe and comfort a person in distress.

This is where you ask yourself what solution you would need in this situation and propose your customers with options. Explain to your customers as to why you’re recommending features, packages or products and why it would work best for them.

A combination of these three qualities helps customer support representatives to understand and take the necessary action needed. This, in turn, helps in building a loyal customer base.

#1 Make Customers Feel Heard

Live chat support has made it easy for customers to contact support. However, it can be difficult to convey empathy through chat.

Here’s where empathetic phrases like “Thank you for bringing this to our attention” and “Thank you for taking the time to drop us a line” will be of great help. Such phrases also encourage customers to address any additional issues being faced.

In the above example, when the customer placed a complaint on the whole brand, the agent apologized on behalf of the company and asked for further details to look into the issue. This gives the company a scope to rectify their error while being empathetic to the customer.

#2 Validate Customers’ Concerns

Being in customer support gives you expertise on the product you work in. Over the course of time, the doubts and concerns customers raise might start to seem too simple to need assistance. It is important to understand that customers are not experts in your product and might have doubts about the basics.

Self-realizing the prejudices we hold and unlearning them is of utmost importance in customer support. While chat support works differently than a phone call, giving quality service is important. For example, if a person who is not fluent in English contacts you with a tech issue, the terms they use might be entirely different.  It is easy to misunderstand whereas what you should really do is offer empathetic assistance.

For example, Canyon is a sports cycle e-commerce site that has target market across Europe. In order to support their wide customer base, they use multi-lingual live chat to connect with their customers.

While multilingual support may not be possible for every brand, you can still help out a non-English speaking customer using auto-translate to assist them better. This kind of empathetic service would instantly earn you a loyal customer.

#3 Understand Your Customers

This is a key factor that can make or break the quality of your customer service. Understanding the tone of the conversation, and the situation of your customer helps identify their needs and why they have approached you in the first place. This, in turn, helps you give them proper guidance in sorting out their concern. You can also go the extra mile and show you care about them by using personalization in conversations.

If you genuinely feel the customer is right, you can use phrases such as “I would do the same if I were in your position too” to show your support.

The agent in the above chat understood the frustration of customer and took action immediately. The agent also made sure the customer was briefed on everything that was done by the company to ensure a great customer experience.

#4 Keep Your Customer Updated on What’s Happening

A customer files a complaint with you in the hope of getting an immediate solution. While your tech support team might be working hard to clear the issue, a proper solution must be given on time. Instead of leaving the customer in the dark, make sure to communicate every step of progress from your side.

The agent in the above example communicated the mistake on the customer’s side, how long it would take for the new option to process, and also directed the customer to the knowledge base for any further information.

#5 Prompt Empathy in Customers

Many a time, you will find yourself in a situation that requires saying no to a customer. It can be anything from informing that you do not have a service or feature they ask for to conveying that the customer should pay extra for a particular feature. In such situations, understanding their point of view enables you to foresee if your customer is getting skeptical of your intentions. Try to empathize with them to gain back their trust.

– When you find a change in the customer’s tone or indifference in the way they chat, be open and ask them what would make the experience better for them.

– Rephrase the part of the chat that made them feel doubtful on your intentions. In some cases, to get a better understanding, paraphrase the chat to ensure if your understanding is correct. This also helps you clear any misunderstanding on the customer’s side.

Empathy in Chat Support

In the above chat, the agent paraphrased the entire situation for the customer when the chat went the wrong direction. This explanation cleared the skepticism customer had while also providing further choices to choose from.

#6 Be positive

Customer support can get exhausting especially when encountering angry customers. Irrespective of whether the customer’s anger is fair or not, you shouldn’t take it personally. Letting them vent out helps you identify their frustration levels and take a suitable approach. If needed, take a break to collect your composure. This is because your tone has a great influence on how the chat turns out.

Use exclamation marks (don’t overuse it). Phrases like  “I can help you with that!” and “That’s awesome!” can uplift the whole mood of the chat in an instant.

You can also have your own signature greetings/signing off phrases. This can help the chat to take on a good mood.

This quirky invitation for chat not only started a conversation but also broke the ice.

#7 Work Towards Finding the Right Solution

How successful you are in being empathetic to customers depends on your speed of arriving at the right solution.  Before asking the customer to refresh or restart a page, question them if they have already done it. All these elements collectively contribute to finding a solution and providing the customers overall satisfaction.

What to do:

– Use shorter sentences and avoid technical terms unless it’s absolutely necessary.

– Use a casual tone to chat. Get creative and use emojis/gifs if possible. This helps the customers to ease any discomfort on their side and communicate better.

The above chat not only initiated a conversation but also informed about an eye-catching offer the customer otherwise might have missed out.

Final Thoughts

Chat support has the ability to largely impact your business. Listening, communicating and empathizing can make your chat support and customer service a hit among customers.

How else do you think empathy has the power to impact customer relations through chat? Let us know in the comments below.

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