Angry Customers Part 5 – Empathy Resolution Statement

I have written on different occasions about the importance of both empathy and resolution when the customer's expectations have not been met, and about the importance of an apology. When dealing with an angry customer, it's important to focus on resolving the issue at hand, to the best of your ability. However, if you don't show any empathy or acknowledgment for the customer's frustration, you still aren't going to provide an optimal customer experience.

I hear many CSRs say, "the customer tells me 'I don't want your apology!' so I never apologize." I have heard customers say this (though data shows it is far less seldom than usually reported), and whenever I hear the statement made it is almost always followed with something like: "I want my issue resolved!"

The problem is not that the customer wants no empathy, the problem is that the customer feels that all he/she has received is empathy and no one is fixing the problem. When the customer says, "I don't want your apology!' it should be a red flag telling you that empathy/resolution is out of balance and you need to focus on resolving the issue.

To avoid getting these out of balance, I recommend what I call a "empathy resolution statement." You offer a simple apology for the problem followed by a statement of what you are going to do to resolve it. Once done, you can usually move on to focusing on resolution knowing that you've adequately expressed empathy.

"I'm sorry that (describe the unmet expectation). What I can/will do is (describe what action you will take)."

For example:

Customer was supposed to receive a call back and didn't.
"I'm sorry we didn't call you back. What I will do is pull up your account and find out what I can do to resolve this for you."

Order didn't arrive.
"I apologize that you didn't get your order as expected. I can check the order for you and let you know what the tracking information tells us."

Customers called several times with the same issue and it hasn't been resolved.
"I'm sorry we've let you down on this issue. I will do everything in my power to get this resolved."

A simple empathy resolution statement will provide the customer with a balanced approach that leads to focus on resolution, but doesn't completely ignore the customer's need for empathy. As with all service skills, each CSR needs to find ways to make the statement conversational and incorporate a wording that is natural and comfortable. If both the empathy and resolution portions of the statement are clearly communicated, you will often set yourself up for a successful service experience.

17 thoughts on “Angry Customers Part 5 – Empathy Resolution Statement

  1. How in the world do you get CSR’s to understand this? It’s so hard when you have people who say, “Well, I didn’t do it: why should I apologise? I have nothing to be sorry for.” I can’t get people to understand that you can show empathy for a situation, no matter what the cause.
    I’m loving this series, Tom.

  2. hey Tom, spot on solution for a classic call centre issue.
    What are your thoughts on “sorry” versus “I appologise”?
    In my experience, agents sometimes have difficulty with “sorry”, particualrly when they didn’t personally cause the problem…
    is “I’m sorry” too personal/intimate statement. (I had an agent tell me once “I’m not personally sorry” – yikes!)
    Is one better or more effective in your opinion?

  3. Great comments!
    Ann, the approach I’ve always used with CSRs is to explain that when they pick up that phone they are the company to that caller. If the caller’s spouse asks them “Who are you talking to?” during the call, the caller isn’t going to say, “I’m talking to Tom” – they’ll say “I’m talking to [insert name of your company]”. When you say “I’m sorry you haven’t received your order” you’re not saying you screwed up personally. You are, as a representative of the company, saying that the company regrets not meeting your expectations.
    Ross, I’d like to address your question in an upcoming post!
    As for part 4, you caught me, Ann. I began writing it and saved it as a “draft” and forgot that I hadn’t finished it. My bad. Look for it to appear in the near future!

  4. Thank you for this. I am a longtime csr and struggle with giving empathy and an assurance statement. I want to do better and found this site. I am going to give it another go tomorrow. You may ask why I struggle with this… its because I personally don’t want to hear a bunch of fluff when I call places I want results. So sadly I dig into resolving the issue and don’t tell the customer that this is what I am doing.

  5. Empathy statement
    “I’m so sorry for that inconvenience. Let me see what I can do for you today.”
    “I’m so sorry that this happened and I will do my best to fix this situation”
    “I’m sorry to hear that. I’ll definitely be able to help you with that today.”
    “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
    “I’m sorry to hear that. I can imagine that must be frustrating.”
    “I can understand that must make you feel upset and we will work toward fixing this situation for you.”
    “I definitely know that could be frustrating. I can understand how you feel.”
    “That’s Terrible!”
    “I can understand the times are very difficult, let’s see what we can do for you today.”
    “You must be feeling pretty frustrated….

  6. Hello Ann, I have a question to clarify.
    Please let me know if the following statement is correct or wrong;
    “I can understand how inconvenient you feel due to the issue”

  7. Hey Tom, this question was meant for you and not Ann.
    Let me repeat it for you. I would like to know if the following statement is correct or wrong;
    “I can understand how inconvenient you feel due to the issue”

  8. Farhana – Great question. The example you cite is not a correct empathy-resolution statement. First, the customer did not feel “inconvenient.” That’s not, technically a feeling or emotion. That the customer was “inconvenienced” is a state of being, but not a feeling. The customer feels “frustrated,” “angry,” or “upset,” because he or she has been inconvenienced.
    Next, the fact that you “understand” does not really express that you care.
    Try one of these instead:
    “I’m sorry for the inconvenience. I can understand why you are upset. What I am going to do for you is…”
    “I know you are frustrated, and I apologize for this inconvenience. I will…”
    I hope that helps!

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