Contact Center Trends

Why empathy is the key to excellent call center customer service

By Ernest Wong

0 min read

We are having a renaissance moment in the realm of customer service: call centers are now being recognized as the center stage for the customer experience.

More than ever, businesses have become focused on forging strong, meaningful relationships with their customers. We have powerful brands like Nordstrom, American Express and Zappos proving to the world that call centers and customer service can actually be a source of sustainable competitive advantage, not just another expense on the balance sheet.

We have new metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer effort score that illustrate a renewed interest in the customer. These metrics have become so popular that new companies have sprung up just to help businesses measure and track these scores.

We have new thought leadership coming out every day extolling the virtues of customer service, declaring how we should be approaching the subject and warning of the dangers of ignoring it.

These are exciting times indeed!

With so much going on, it can be daunting to undertake an effort to reform your customer service. Blindly following best practices without truly grasping the essence of the concept can often result in a facade of customer-centricity, as opposed to a truly transformative experience.

In order to make a fundamental change in how they provide support, businesses must bring about a cultural change at every level of their organization. After all, companies known for exemplary call center customer service are not lauded for their key performance indicators (KPIs); they are lauded for the way they make their customers feel. What steps can companies take to promote and foster a customer-centric culture? The answer is: through empathy.

Empathy plays a key role in call center customer service.

Empathy is the ability to share or understand the feelings of others. It’s an essential element of everyday relationships and can be equally powerful when it comes to company-customer relationships.

What does it mean for a company to show empathy to its customers? On the most basic level, companies demonstrate empathy by thoughtfully shaping the customer experience. Customers should be treated like individuals, rather than sources of revenue, on every step of their journey.

In the call center context, empathy can manifest in a variety of ways: a carefully chosen call queue song or an agent consciously addressing a caller by name.

Successful companies invest in promoting empathy because they recognize truly meaningful customer experiences spring from empathy. Without it, there can be no genuine customer service and your company will essentially just be “faking it” (and your customers will be able to tell).

You might like to think so, but I would challenge you to consider how many customer service interactions you’ve personally experienced where you felt like the agent really connected with you. It’s probably not all that many.

Empathy is one of those things that everyone talks about, but no one actually has any real clue how to do it. It’s an abstract concept; some might even call it “mushy.” Companies may struggle to accurately define what empathy would look like, let alone to implement and measure it.

But here are some proven ways to ensure empathy runs through the company’s culture and callers are treated with concern and respect:

See processes through the eyes of the customer. Sometimes, customers get angry and frustrated not because of the problem, but because of the call center customer service bottlenecks. Put yourself on the customer’s shoes and go through the whole process to identify problems and points of friction.

Identify and share best practices. By analyzing interactions, you can identify examples and best practices of pure empathy and agent-customer connection. This could include identifying words, phrases, or any other actions that put the customer at ease.

Give agents the tools they need. Technology can help agents to be more empathetic. Tools like customer sentiment analytics can identify key conversational moments, topics, customer intents, and sentiments and suggest agents the next best action to create a faster and more frictionless customer experience.

How To Increase Call Center Agent Productivity


How to increase call center agent productivity

Connecting empathy and technology in call center customer service.

Sure, there are all kinds of resources online that describe how empathy is about “listening” and “relating” and “absorbing.” That’s all true, but how do you actually institutionalize and ensure the upkeep of empathy?

These are the types of discussions we have at Talkdesk. Our company makes enterprise cloud-based contact center software with an intuitive interface, advanced features, and several business tool integrations.

While the robust functionality we offer still doesn’t guarantee empathy in our users’ interactions with their customers, it surely helps them by providing the necessary information and the right tools so the agent can focus on the caller.


Ernest Wong

Guest blogger and former Talkdesk Product Manager