Empathy in Customer Service: A Guide

Expectations are higher than ever when it comes to customer service, so how can you properly commit to their needs? We’ll take you through our guide to delivering customer service with real empathy below…

The customer is – as it says on the tin – at the heart of customer service. So, it’ll come as no surprise to know that as they expect more and more from online retailers, the level of empathy customers are shown plays a vital part in what they think about a business.

But why is it so important? And how can you ensure you’re giving stellar customer service even with the upcoming peak season approaching? Read our guide below, and you’ll have everything you need to know to knock the socks off your customers all year round…

What is empathy?

Empathy is usually defined as the ability to understand how others are feeling, connect with those same emotions, and provide them with a compassionate response based on the whole picture.

The definition doesn’t change when it comes to customer service, either. It’s still about whether you can understand how people are feeling based on their response and then using that knowledge to inform how you’ll deal with the customer in the best possible manner.


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Why is empathy important in customer service?

With so much competition and such high expectations involved, the customer service journey can either make or break your business in the online retail world.

Therefore, making sure that your customer service is as customer-centric as possible is an essential quality, one that customers are increasingly looking for in their most trusted businesses.

But why is it particularly important to provide an empathetic approach?

By displaying empathy, you’ll gain a better understanding of people in general. As a brand, understanding what people want and knowing how they want their customer service to be should always sit at the top of your priority list. When you have this high a level of understanding, then you’ll be able to stay ahead of the competition while also giving your customers a level of service that they simply won’t be able to find elsewhere.

You’ll also become a pro at predicting the action and reactions of your customers, meaning you can proactively predict how they want you to respond during the customer service journey or through chatbot systems.

This will in turn improve your conflict management, with customers more likely to be patient and cooperative following empathetic support, rather than angry and dismissive, should they encounter certain incidents.

Of course, empathising with the customer also comes with benefits for your business.  Increased customer satisfaction can lead to long-term customer relationships and if their service needs are met, then they’re overall more likely to return.

How to show empathy in customer service

Now that you know why showing empathy is important, you’ll next want to know how you can implement this into your business as soon as possible.

Here are 8 of the best ways you can show empathy during your customer service journey…

Practice active listening

The best way to understand how customers are feeling and what their concerns are is by listening to them. Sounds simple, but it’s true. By acknowledging the customer’s concerns, you’re showing that you can be empathetic to them regardless of the situation, so be sure to lend them an ear.

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Use positive language

Ensuring you’re not being negative in your reactions or questions will keep the tone of the conversation more positive, leaving even the most frustrated customer feeling like they had a positive interaction with your brand.

Look at things from their POV

Putting yourself in the shoes of the customer should be a skill that all customer service teams have, as well as being a key quality of a successful customer service manager. The customer should come first, so doing everything you can to make them the focus of your work includes feeling what they feel. Once you can understand their emotions, you’re in a better position to then respond accordingly.

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Prioritise accuracy over speed

While customers generally want their service to be quick, ensuring that everything – from the information you provide them with to the solutions or options you offer – should be as accurate as possible.

Combine these customer service needs by using leading and reflective questions while still adding words of urgency to responses.

For example, you could say: “We are sorry that you experienced this, and we will work on fixing it as soon as possible. Could you please provide a little more detail about the problem first?”

Gather feedback

How will you know how your customers feel if you don’t ask for feedback? Whether it’s after a call with a member of the team or a chat with the chatbot services, you should always get detailed feedback where possible.

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Highlight positive customer service interactions

When you have a positive interaction with a customer, make sure that you’re thinking about why it was positive. Did you go in with a positive attitude, fix their problem, or listen to their concerns?

Whatever it was, ensure that you understand why it was a good interaction and continue to learn from each customer.

Be respectful

You can’t expect a customer to feel good about their service if they aren’t met with respect. This is where identifying and removing any biases in your customer service is essential. Doing so ensures that every customer is treated with the respect that they deserve regardless of who they are and what their issue or concern is.

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Don’t assume, always ask

By assuming that you know what the customer wants, you take away your ability to be empathetic. Rather than trying to understand exactly what it is that the customer wants, take the time to get the whole picture by asking questions about the situation before jumping the gun – your customers will definitely appreciate you for it.

How to measure empathy for customers

If you ask any e-commerce business about measuring empathy in their customers, they’ll tell you that it’s no easy feat. Empathy has always been viewed as something that can’t be measured because it’s a feeling. But there are some key responses and interactions to look out for that can be collated as data on empathy.

Try the following…

Measuring KPIs

From customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) to average handling time (AHT), every part of your customer service journey is in fact measurable.

Measuring the most worthwhile key performance indicators will not only support your business but when it comes to your customer satisfaction and empathy levels, it’ll also give you the best understanding of what your customers think of you already. From this, you can change your strategy to include more of what your customers want – the first step into being an empathetic brand.

And remember, collecting research based on your customer interactions across different channels of the business is an act of empathy itself. It shows you’re thinking about how to proactively solve the problems within your business while keeping the customer at the heart of everything.

Examining customer interactions

 Another way to measure empathy for customers is by consistently and thoughtfully connecting the dots between business and customer by using defined goals tied to customer experience metrics.

In other words – look at what customers have said and see if their interactions match up with your business’s goals. By examining the way people have responded to your existing customer service, you can then work out whether you’re lacking in empathy. And with that information to hand, you can then begin to improve on the areas that need real work.


Looking for customer service that really speaks to your contacts? Gnatta makes interactions matter, delivering quality exchanges and quicker responses that meet your customers’ expectations. 

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