Five effective ways to increase customer empathy

Jim Rembach

How companies can engage customers on a deeper level to create more successful moments of truth along the customer journey

Customer empathy is the skill of understanding how and why customers feel the way they do and to communicate it effectively. If you understand the how and why of customer feelings then you will be better prepared to solve their problems and meet their needs.

SEE ALSO: Forrester exclusive – Designing for emotion in customer experience

Many people say that as a society empathy is scarce. And that we are raising a generation that are socially dysfunctional. The result of this is that organisations have to spend effort and money on ways to increase customer empathy that they have never had to invest in before. And they must do it because customer experience is now the main point of competitive differentiation. And empathy is a core component in creating exceptional customer experiences.

Here are five ways that companies can increase customer empathy and engage customers at a significantly deeper level; doing these things can help you create more successful moments of truth along the customer journey.

1. Become a customer (or have a close friend do it)

Go beyond mystery shopping and actually become your customer, or have a friend do it. Take the time to document every touch point and interaction. Pay special attention to what the perception might be if you didn’t have your knowledge. Go the extra mile and create a return, escalate a customer service interaction, or take your own survey. You will get an entirely new perspective and hopefully not lose a friend.

2. Go beyond journey mapping

Having an illustration of how your customers move through different touch points and parts of your organisation is great. But mapping out their experiences in a process driven method is not enough to understand what they feel, what they see, what they say, their fears, and their motivations.

In order to connect with their hearts and minds you need to conduct empathy mapping. Then you can walk through the customer journey and have a greater understanding of how to better engage and what you need to do to lower customer dissatisfaction.

3. Increase your emotional intelligence (EQ)

EQ has been proven to contribute greatly to the success of individuals and organisations. Those with a higher EQ outperform all others with similar intellectual knowledge. EQ helps you to relate more skilfully with fellow employees and customers.

EQ helps you to control your behaviour and emotions better and helps you to be more self-aware to prevent being blinded by problems that increase customer effort.

4. Learn a new language

The words we use can hurt others and prevent people from engaging. Is your business language full of fear invoking behaviour? If your office language is full of words like risk, accountability, threats, and prohibition, it’s time to stop and look at the behaviour that creates.

This fear prevents the ability to show customer empathy. It shuts people down and puts them in survival mode. It is counterproductive? Make sure you over-use words like opportunity, aspiration, ownership, appreciation, gratitude, hope, trust, and believe instead.

5. Get your ‘but’ out of the way

When you use the word ‘but’ it most often is used to kill creative thinking. As a society we have gotten into a bad habit of saying, “Yes, but…” when we reply to a thought or idea that someone has shared.

Your ‘but’ is preventing you from experiencing a deeper level of connection and understanding. It is killing your own creativity. Next time when you have the urge to say, “Yes, but…” try to say “Explain that a little more so I can understand better”. Then, get ready to learn something.


When customers call your customer service, or anytime you attempt to connect with customers really, you have an opportunity to engage. But your attempt to engage can be handicapped before it even occurs.

Increasing customer empathy is more than just teaching people phrases like “I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this problem”, or “I know how frustrating it can be when that happens”. Because just saying those things is not enough when customers keep experiencing the same problems.

Customer empathy is more than words. You must put in the environment and habits that prove you are empathetic. Empathy only works when it’s genuine.