5 most effective empathetic phrases to know and use for building a strong customer-agent rapport

Emotional intelligence is incredibly compelling when it comes to handling conversations with clients as it has the power to either make or break customer service experiences. Customer support agents have the responsibility of solving and answering plenty of customer issues and queries, making it challenging to enhance the support experience with each and every interaction. According to a study conducted by Microsoft, 96% of customers say that customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a business or brand. 

Customer support representatives are the first point of contact of any brand or business making them a vital element in setting the brand apart from its competitors. The quality of customer service in a contact centre or in an internal support team is crucial in establishing a long term relationship with customers. In the book, How to Win Friends & Influence People in the Digital Age, Dale and his associates highlight the transformative power in taking time to understand somebody and focus on the positive of the person or situation rather than the negative. It is eloquently mentioned in the book, “we are all united by the single desire to value one another”. This applies to customers also. Although in a customer support interaction, it is not always easy to convey appreciation, understanding or empathy for a customer’s situation. And at VOIZ we acknowledge that it is not always possible to provide 100% effective solutions but what is possible is supplying your customers with empathetic and supportive communication at all points of interaction which makes all the difference between a substandard and delightful experience.

But how can a support agent manage to wow each and every customer or caller when so many resolutions are more or less similar? The solution here does not lie in spending time or additional effort in applying new methods of resolution but in making your customers feel valued by speaking to them with empathy and thoughtfulness. Accordion to whoson.com, 40% of customers want more empathetic support while interacting with a business. Empathy has proved to be a crucial part of a brand’s CX strategy. Doing so will not only make you feel great about your job but also helps in morale-boosting for your team while also boosting key customer metrics. As Forbes famously said, “Put your customers’ needs first and your company’s success will follow.” 

Why are empathy statements important in building long term relationships with your customers?

Source: Help Centre

Empathy takes a minimum of two persons and is about the depth and nature of the connection that has transpired between those people- you and your callers or customers. Note that empathy is not a synonym for sympathy or about feeling sorry for the other person. Nor is it about being overly polite or chatty but taking the effort to connect on a deeper and more emotional level.  As a support agent or CX talent, empathy is an important character trait to possess as you have to interact with different types of people and solve their problems whilst also representing the brand or business in the most human way possible. Therefore, it is through empathy, warmth and humaneness that a customer support agent establishes rapport with the customer. 

How do empathy statements tend to influence customer service?
According to Empathy Index, “Empathy is more important to a successful business than it has ever been that correlates to productivity, growth and earnings per employee.” Most support agents are familiar with disgruntled and agitated customers but what customers calling a support representative or a contact centre collectively want are: 

  • Human Interaction 
  • Quick Resolution 
  • Friendly and knowledgeable agents 
  • Easy connection with a support agent 

Source: Reve Chat

Empathy is important as it is one of the few factors that determine how valuable a customer interaction was, others being price, competence, convenience etc. When a customer is evaluating a certain experience or an equation with a brand or business, most people would say that they place competence or the ability to get the job done over empathy except when they are feeling psychological distress. That said, the reality is often different because even if you meet their needs and/or resolve their issues, the caller or customers might still leave the conversation or interaction feeling dissatisfied or unfulfilled. This is why there is an urgent need to incorporate empathy into your customer service interactions. 
A statement of empathy is defined as the act of understanding a consumer’s experience in a way that demonstrates that you are sensitive to their to your customer’s thoughts and feelings. In the field of customer service, empathy statements show the efforts that a customer support agent makes at feeling what the customer is going through. Usage of appropriate phrases of empathy can help clients feel like they are heard, respected, understood and above all valued. Here are some ways empathetic statements can be beneficial to the company and your support team. 

  • Accelerated innovation and productivity
    At VOIZ we have consistently noticed that agents who are more empathetic or equipped with strong empathy skills tend to be more creative, innovative and productive. It is also proven that expanding and enhancing the quality of solving your customer’s problems can help build trust with customers while also developing your soft skills and people management capabilities. 
  • Increased conversions
    When you genuinely connect with your customers and understand their demands and needs by reflecting and responding to their desires, fears and pain points you are humanising the brand that you represent and also ensuring that your customers develop an affinity for your offerings. 
  • Enlarged engagement and augmented collaboration
    When customer support representatives express interest, empathy, appreciation and a willingness to act compassionately towards their callers or clients it reflects positively on the reputation of the company adding to its overall credibility. This further attracts highly engaged individuals and new customers through various mediums such as word of mouth, positive feedback etc. An empathetic support agent or CX talent has the potential to single-handedly increase the retention rates for a company. 
    According to Capgemini, A lack of consumer centricity costs brands 69 points in NPS. Empathy statements demonstrate that you are invested in answering customer queries, solving their problems and providing them with an exceptional support experience. Luckily for you, here are a few empathy phrases and statements that you can use to get you started on the road to better customer support and service. 

Empathetic statements and phrases according to different stages of the customer interaction:

  • Evaluating the situation 
    The primary duty of a support agent is to evaluate the situation and react accordingly. Assessing the situation can be tricky as what you say here sets the tone and mood of the rest of the conversation. These two phrases can help you do just that. 
  1. “How can I be of assistance to you today?” 
    You can use your creativity here. By expressing your desire to help and resolve their issue, customers will be able to recognize your willingness to listen and care for their problems. 
  1. “Can you tell me a little bit more about it?”
    This phrase establishes that you are prioritizing your customer and taking them by their words which makes the interaction so much smoother than what it would have started out to be. It also indicates that the customer has your individual attention, curiosity and interest in the matter at hand. 
  • Clarifying the situation 
    Once you have a better idea of the kind of situation you are dealing with, you must ensure your customer that you are on the same page with them regarding the issue at hand. This stage is crucial as what you say next can calm the customer or rile them up by asking them to repeat what they are saying. 
  1. “Please correct me if I’m wrong but you are saying is..”
    By saying this you are making your customer actually feel like a king as you are revealing that you have listened to everything they had to say and want to make sure that you’ve gotten it right. By giving your customer the upper hand to correct you, you are placing them on a pedestal that expresses their importance. 
  1. “I just want to make sure that I have a clear picture of what you are saying..”
    By saying this or phrases that are similar you are including your customer in the process of clarification which can eventually speed up the process of resolution. 
  1. “If I am understanding this correctly..”
    This shows that you are actively listening and involving yourself in the process of identifying customer issues right from the start. Furthermore, this ensures that the two of you are on the same page which reduces any chances of misunderstanding during the later stages of the call. 
  • Acknowledging consumer frustration
    Once you have a better understanding of what’s going on and how your customer feels, you will be in a better position to acknowledge where your customer is coming from. It will make it easy for you to try and connect with your customer’s pain points or struggles, making them feel supported. 
  1. “I am extremely sorry that you are facing this issue.”
    While the word ‘sorry’ has the reputation for being overused in the customer service industry. Using it at the right moment post the stage of understanding the issue that your client is facing is an effective way to start mending the relationship. 
  1. “I can understand just how difficult this must be for you.”
    By using a personal approach, you are demonstrating the willingness to be an active participant in the resolution journey simply not because you have to but because you genuinely want to. This helps in creating the foundation for a long-lasting and trustworthy relationship.
  1. “I would feel pretty much feel the same in this situation.”
    Saying so or something similar is what differentiates an agent from a robot. It is a promising way to assure your caller or customer that you are there for them through this support journey and that their feelings are validated. 
  • Reassuring your caller or customer and providing them with a sense of urgency 
    The ultimate reason why a customer decides to call a support agent is that they are looking for effective solutions or concrete information. After conveying to the customer that you have understood their position and their issues, it is time to make it clear to the customer what happens next. That would involve reassuring the customer that you are striving to resolve their problems which tends to uplift their spirits while also creating a good impression.
  1. “Don’t worry, we will get your issue resolved at the earliest opportunity.”
    Using such statements also boosts the confidence of your customers as they think that you are putting additional effort into fixing the issue. 
  1. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”
    By saying so, you are highlighting the fact that your brand appreciates the feedback while also alluding to the notion that you are more than willing to act on it demonstrating your tenacity to relieve them of any future hassle. By providing credence to your customer complaints, you are assuring them that their complaints are not a burden for you, encouraging them to reach you when they face a problem. 
  • Keep your customer updated. 
    Something that a customer who has spent their time waiting on hold and communicating their problems appreciates is a decent supply of information of how their issue is being treated. When customers are updated about the progress of their issues, they stay positive of the entire encounter and the customer service experience. 
  1. “What I am presently doing to help you is..”
    By saying this you have gained control of the conversation, relieving the customer of some stress and pressure as they feel like you will the burden of the problem has been lifted off of them and will be resolved by you for them. 
  1. “Please feel free to ask me any questions that you may have.”
    Questions mean the possibility of additional information being asked. Doing so demonstrates that you are wholeheartedly interested in placating your customer which helps in building trust, strengthens relationships and fosters the progression of customer-agent relationships. 
  • Resolutions and commitments 
    At this point of the interaction, the customer expects you to wholly resolve the issue but if the resolution were to take some time then these phrases can help buy the time and convince the customers that you will be taking care of the issue even after the call. 
  1. “I will get in touch with you when I have a more recent update.”
    By saying so you are promising the customer that you will follow through with the responsibility of fixing the issue at hand. Making a commitment such as this and acting upon it will help in forming a long-standing relationship between the company and the customer. 
  • Developing and maintaining secure customer relationships
    After the call has run its course, there may be chances that the customer is not fully satisfied or convinced with what you had to say. In such situations, building an atmosphere of trust and empathy is vital in securing customer loyalty and maintaining these relationships. To rebuild customer relationships and quell such issues, these are good examples of phrases that can be beneficial in such situations. 
  1. “I value that you have taken the time to stay on this call and provide us with the information that we need to improve and work on. I will assure you that I will pass this on to the concerned team to eliminate the possibility of any such issues arising.”
  1. “Your satisfaction is our ultimate goal. Thank you for helping me understand the issue better so that we can work on resolving it.

Conclusion
To make effective statements of empathy, you need to be able to authentically channel the cornerstones of empathy in a single interaction which are clarification, validation, reassurance, and appreciation. It is not always easy to keep your emotional quotient up. You’re human too and the moment you feel your empathy slipping away, remember that every person you interact with is important and unique. The next time you feel uninspired, use these empathy statements and phrases in your contact centre to demonstrate empathy towards customers and keep them loyal to the brand and organisation. 

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