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What are empathy statements and how do you coach agents on them?

An empathy statement is a phrase used by a call center agent to positively connect emotionally with the caller, which helps better handle customer complaints and improve the customer's experience.

What is an empathy statement?

An empathy statement is a phrase used by a call center agent to connect emotionally and positively with the caller. It’s a way for the agent to validate the caller’s feelings and show that the agent cares about and acknowledges their issue or feelings. It is one of the most critical call center agent soft skills.

Why do empathy statements matter?

Empathy statements are short phrases that establish and maintain a rapport between the caller and the agent. These short phrases can be used to diffuse or de-escalate a situation and leaves the caller feeling more positively about the interaction. They're also critical in alleviating customer complaints, improving customer satisfication, and providing great customer service.

As a result, empathy statements are critical for improving a number of important call center KPIs including:

  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT): When an agent displays empathy (and the perception of a caring approach), there’s a better chance of the overall sentiment of the call being positive. If a caller is unhappy or frustrated at the start of the call, empathy statements are used to improve the callers mood and impact overall CSAT metrics.
  • Supervisor Escalation: It’s estimated that 85% of escalations could have been resolved with the initial phone rep, however, one of the primary drivers of a supervisor escalation is negative caller sentiment. If the caller is frustrated or has a complaint that they feel won't be resolved by the agent, they may immediately opt to request to speak to a supervisor. Empathy statements are a powerful de-escalation tactic, turning around the sentiment on the call and avoid a supervisor escalation by building better rapport with the caller.
  • Increased conversions and customer retention: One negative experience can cause a caller to take their business elsewhere and churn. They might be calling in to vent, or looking to have an issue resolved, so by empathetically resolving their issue, you can increase conversion rates and reduce churn.

When should empathy statements be used?

In reality, as often as possible. Taking an empathetic approach puts the agent in a better position to establish rapport, show authenticity, and build and trust with the caller. However, there are certain empathy statements that can be used in important situations, and agents can be coached on those.

  • At the beginning and end of the call. This is an opportunity to open the call with a welcoming tone and end the call leaving the caller with a lasting positive experience.
  • When the caller expresses their problem or issue they’re having. This is an opportunity for the agent to acknowledge that they understand the problem or challenge. It’s also an opportunity to instill confidence in the caller that the agent will do their best to solve the problem. This shows a genuine interest of the agent in the customer's challenge.
  • When the caller’s tone changes and they are upset or frustrated. This is an opportunity for the agent to empathize with the caller, validating their feelings.
  • When the caller states something that is true. This is an opportunity for the agent to acknowledge that the caller is correct and validates their point of view.

Check out our playbook on the 7 most impactful agent softskills that drive empathy, and how to build them into your coaching programs.

Get the Guide! ⟶

What are examples of empathy statements?

Magic vs. Tragic Moments

One of our customers, a large U.S.-based moving company, monitors their agent performance around empathy statements using MAGIC and Tragic moments, a mix of active verbs and personal pronouns.

MAGIC moments are interactions that “Make A Great Impression on the Customer,” such as saying “please” “thank you,” or “How can I help?” Tragic moments, such as saying “Calm down,” “Never,” and “Just a sec,” do the opposite.

While MAGIC moments are empathy statements, think of tragic moments as unempathetic statements.

How to show empathy without saying sorry?

When an agent apologizes (says "sorry) to a customer, they aren't actually indicating empathy. It's more powerful for the agent to instead of saying "sorry," proactively assure the customer that they are commited to solving their issue.

Here are some examples of how to express empathy without saying sorry:

  • "I'm here you solve your issue."
  • "I understand why you're feeling that way."
  • "I understand why this is difficult."
  • “I would like to do _____ for you.”
  • "I will personally take care of this for you."

How do you monitor and coach for empathy statements

With a contact center AI platform, call centers are able to monitor for any number of different empathy statements on 100% of voice calls (driven through speech analytics). This is done via phrase analysis - analyzing the transcribed call for phrases and reporting on how often they are used. Looking at the MAGIC and Tragic moments above are examples of phrases that can be monitored. 

However, there are cases where you’d like to monitor for empathy of your agents not just on what was said, but how they said it. This is where sentiment analysis, particularly tonality-based sentiment analysis, comes into play.

Tonality-based Sentiment Analysis A detailed examination of a voice conversation that determines how the speaker is feeling based on multiple granularities, beyond what words were used, and instead focused on how those words were conveyed through tone and volume.

By uncovering sentiment on 100% of voice calls, contact centers can better understand what’s impacting the candidate experience, identifying opportunities to improve agent soft skills and productivity, and bolster their overall QM strategy.

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