Empathy Statements for Customer Service – with AER Statement Examples


Hands Holding Yellow and White Speech Bubbles Customer Service Empathy Statements

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Here are our tried-and-tested empathy statements for customer service that can help agents build great rapport – across all channels.

We’ve also provided useful insight into AER statements (including AER statement examples) and more.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is different from sympathy. Empathy is the ability to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” — while sympathy is feeling the same feelings as the customer.

It’s the difference between saying, “I can see why you’re upset about your broken centrepieces, let’s look into finding a replacement for you” (empathy), compared to thinking and saying, “I’m really angry about those broken centrepieces too” (sympathy).

What is an Empathy Statement?

Empathy statements are short phrases that help you establish a connection with the person you are talking to.

They show that the other person is your sole focus and that you are taking personal responsibility for them in this conversation. They help create trust and mutual understanding.

Empathy is a great tool to help show customers that you are on their side, and empathy statements can be used in many difficult customer situations.

To find out how contact centres can create an action plan for empathizing with customers, read our article: An Action Plan for Customer Empathy.

Top 5 Empathy Statements for Customer Service:

1. “I’m sorry you are having this problem.”

It helps to genuinely just say sorry. For example, “I’m truly sorry to hear about your experience”.

2. “That would frustrate me too”

Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how they must be feeling.

For example, agreeing with them and saying things like “That would frustrate me too”, and “I would be asking exactly the same questions as you are” can all help them to feel understood.

3. “I have experienced a similar problem recently, so I understand what you are saying. Let me see what I can do to help you out.”

Examples of Empathy Statements for Customer Service

Drawing on their own experiences singles the advisor out from the company that the customer feels aggravated by.

Then, by signalling that the problem has now gone, the advisor has demonstrated that a solution is available.

4. “I want to make sure that I have a full understanding of what you’re telling me. I’m hearing that…”

Expressing the desire to listen deeply to the customer, by giving them the opportunity to correct your understanding of their query, reinforces the customer–advisor connection and improves customer service.

5. “I realise how upsetting this must be”

Customers also need to feel like you are on their side and not fighting them on their issue. This is where statements starting with “I realise…”, “I understand…” and “I appreciate…” can make a massive difference.

For example, “I realise how upsetting this must be”, “I understand that this has been inconvenient for you”, and “I appreciate your patience in this matter”.

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Top Empathy Statements to Paste into an Email or Live Chat

Training agents to show empathy extends across all channels – not just voice.

Here are 9 empathy statements that Leslie O’Flahavan, Principal and Owner at E-Write shared with us in our ‘Chat and Email Mistakes to Avoid’ webinar:

These can be pasted into emails or live chat conversations to help your agents show empathy:

  1. I would be upset too.
  2. I realise how complicated it is to…
  3. I can imagine how frustrating that would be.
  4. That would be disappointing, especially when… [paraphrase the customer’s perspective or efforts]
  5. We want to understand what happened just as much as you do.
  6.  I can see why that made you angry.
  7. This situation is unacceptable to us too.
  8. If I were in your situation, I would feel exactly the same way you do.
  9. If I were in your situation, I would be asking the same questions you are.
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Start Using AER Statements

What Are AER Statements?

AER stands for ‘Acknowledgement’, ‘Empathy’, and ‘Reassurance’. Bringing these elements together into a series of connected phrases is a tried-and-tested way to help agents better manage difficult or upset customers.

As outlined below:

Acknowledgement

AER stands for ‘Acknowledgement’, ‘Empathy’, and ‘Reassurance’
AER Statements for Customer Service

Tuning into and accepting the customers’ problem and feelings.

For example, “I know how difficult it sometimes is to set up a new smartphone.”

Empathy

Affirming the customers’ emotional state.

For example, “I can see why you must be frustrated.”

Reassurance

Confirming to the customer that they are in safe hands, and you’ll be able to help them.

For example, “The good news is you’re through to the right person and I’m more than happy to help guide you through the process”.

When is it Necessary to Deliver an AER Statement?

The short answer = whenever appropriate.

An agent should be able to pick up on a customer’s tone, stress levels, anger, or frustration and gauge when it’s the right time to deliver an AER statement in response.

Three AER Statement Examples:

  1. It’s great that you’re in the process of setting up your new phone. I’m sorry to hear you are having issues getting up and running. I’ll help you with this.
  2. Thank you for getting in touch about your slow broadband. I realise how frustrating this must be. Let me look into the problem and help get it back to where it should be.
  3. Sorry you’ve had to ring through to us today about your broken glasses. I would be upset too. Let me look into ordering a replacement for you to arrive as soon as possible.
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Additional Phrases to Help You Show Empathy and Understanding in a Conversation:

“I can see where the problem is, Sir/Madam…”

Conveying the advisor’s experience in handling calls of this nature provides the customer with a strong indication of the ability of the call centre professional to find a swift solution to the query.

“We will work to resolve the problem. You just enjoy your (birthday/holidays/Christmas break, etc.), and I will be in touch shortly”

Acknowledging a customer’s personal holidays and future plans allows your advisor to add a personal touch to the interaction, and basing your actions around a customer’s schedule demonstrates an empathetic approach.

“When I am done, if I have got something wrong, I would appreciate it if you would correct me, if that is ok?”

Involving the customer in the process of clarifying and solving their enquiry allows them to feel encouraged as to its progress and does not leave them “stuck in the middle”.

“You’re absolutely correct”

Displaying respect and empathy for the customer’s opinions demonstrates the advisor’s consideration for their client’s predicament.

“This should be fixed by the end of the weekend, Mr Smith”

Providing a close, but realistic, timeframe for when a customer query can be answered, if it cannot be solved immediately, should again take responsibility away from the customer and allow them to relax.

“I will contact you as soon as we have had an update”

Making a commitment such as this and then following it up should help you to establish a basis of trust between the company and the customer, which helps in forming a long-standing relationship.

“I will be sure to pass on what you have told me to our managerial team.”

Exhibiting that you are proactive when receiving criticism and that your advisors are in constant communication with their superiors helps to assure aggrieved customers that the right procedures are in place to handle their complaints.

If the situation is especially difficult, some more great statements can be found in the following article: 27 Positive Statements to Use In Difficult Situations

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What Should be Included in Empathy Statements?

Personal Pronouns

The words “I” and “you” are essential in empathy statements for irate customers, as well as other types of challenging customers.

When you use personal pronouns (and especially “I” rather than a more corporate “we”) the listener understands that you are personally involved and interested in them as an individual. They feel that you understand their situation and that you want to help them as a priority.

Active Verbs

Compare: “This will be resolved by our team” with: “I will ask our team to resolve this.”

The first version is anonymous, lacking personality and has no underlying responsibility, whilst the second makes you believe that there is a real person actively working to fix an issue, and who might physically chase the team until it is done.

So, replace passive verbs with active verbs, which add a sense of immediacy.

Authenticity

Reading standard empathy phrases without being authentic creates resentment and can increase anger.

Be genuine, honest and be yourself. Reading standard empathy phrases without being authentic creates resentment and can increase anger. It is more important to be natural, calm and positive than to get the exact phrasing correct.

Authenticity means using a natural tone, and less formal ways of speaking.

Use “thanks” instead of “thank you”; “hi” instead of “hello”; “enjoy the rest of your day” instead of “goodbye”. Use contractions/short forms of verbs: you’re, can’t, he’s, don’t, etc.

This is essential for building empathy in customer service.

Thanks to Matthew MacLachlan, Head of Intercultural and Communication Skills Training at Learnlight

Using Empathy Statements in Customer Service

Assessing the Situation

The first duty of an agent when handling a customer query is to assess the situation. When doing so, the agent should use empathetic statements to convey their interest in and attentiveness to the customer’s enquiry. For example:

“Can you tell me a little more about it, please?”

Clarifying the Situation

Once your advisor has all such information at their fingertips, the situation must next be clarified to ensure that your frontline worker and their customer are both “on the same page”.

Here, empathy statements are vital so that the customer does not get frustrated at having to repeat themselves. For example:

“When I am done, if I have got something wrong, I would appreciate it if you would correct me, if that’s ok?”

Reassuring the Customer

When the advisor has a full understanding of the matter at hand, that individual should make the process of what happens next clear to the customer.

This involves reassuring the customer that the company is striving to resolve their issue, improving customer service and further building customer–advisor rapport. For example:

“We will help you get this issue resolved”

Tip – As well as using respectful, compassionate and attentive language to empathise with the customer, reassuring noises can also serve for same purpose.

Pure silence on the agent’s part can cause the customer to feel helpless, so agents should use such noises to assure the client of their focus and understanding.

Providing a Sense of Immediacy

Whist reassuring the customer of their enquiry’s importance to the business, it is also important for advisors to provide them with a sense of immediacy. This is particularly important for angry customers.

In order to minimise customer frustration at spending too long on the phone, your agents should use empathy statements for irate customers to alleviate such feelings on behalf of the client and demonstrate a caring approach.

Making a Commitment

As well as reassuring the customer and providing them with a sense of immediacy, making a commitment to them helps to comfort customers with the knowledge that their issue is being treated. For example:

“Do let us know if you have any further questions, Mr Smith”

Maintaining Strong Customer Service

After the process has run its course, there is a chance that the customer will not be completely impressed by the answers that they have received.

In such a situation, building an empathetic atmosphere is key to maintaining strong customer relations and providing a great service.

Closing the Call

Now that the call is ending, agents must still maintain a respectful tone and maintain their empathetic attitude so that customers feel comfortable voicing more concerns and stay satisfied with the service received.

A good way of ending the call is something along the lines of:

“I hope this helps, please come back to me if you have any other problems”

Our article The Best Call-Closing Statements explores best statements and phrases to end a phone call.

More Quick Tips for Showing Empathy

This video contains some great tips for how you can show empathy using the above tips – and some more great, original advice.

In the following video, Neil Martin of The First Word shares some of his favourite empathy phrases and how to blend them into apology letters and emails.

For more on the topic of building empathy in the contact centre, read our articles:

Published On: 30th Nov 2016 - Last modified: 24th Nov 2022
Read more about - Skills, , , , , , , ,


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7 Comments
  • Ok thanks for this. Now with social media in place as yet another platform for customer support, (Facebook,Twitter,instagram,etc) how can we address empathy as in this case you don’t speak to a customer live as in a call. May you please support the platform. Your newsletters have been extremely helpful

    Zainab 2 Dec at 05:24
  • It’s certainly more difficult on social media as you have less text to play with and it is more visible. I would certainly acknowledge that there is a problem. So maybe “Thanks for letting us know about the problem. I can understand how frustrating that could be.” Maybe also say “if you have any more problems contact us directly via….” That could certainly help.

    Jonty Pearce 9 Dec at 12:55
  • It is really very similar in social media. The best way is to mirror the behaviour and language that the customer uses. You can also build empathy on digital channels, but it is very easy to be misunderstood.

    Jonty Pearce 2 Dec at 21:07
  • I appreciate you contacting me

    If we apply the entire article in social media it’s important to have a personal connection in a public venue. May I suggest “I appreciate you contacting me regarding this and can certainly understand why this is frustrating…..I would like to confirm a few details so that our team can better resolve the issue without delay Please sent us a private message with your account information so we can get started right away .”

    Jim T, Training and Skill Development 11 Feb at 04:03
  • I would steer away from ‘I understand’ as the natural reaction from anyone is to say ‘you do not understand’. Remember we are dealing with emotions. I would prefer ‘I appreciate your situation/frustration’. This gives a more reasonable response and I would only use ‘I understand’ when clarifying facts.

    Melvyn G 12 Apr at 07:45
  • its very helpful especially we are doing our mock call today! break a Leg Wave 19

    Asrin Salman 5 May at 02:24
  • Absolutely brilliant work, these are great empathy words

    vikas 4 Oct at 03:28
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