Why Empathy is Key to Resolving Customer Complaints and How to Develop It

By Billie •  Updated: 04/06/23 •  7 min read

Customer service is the backbone of any successful business. It’s not enough to simply sell a great product or service; you must also be able to handle complaints and issues effectively. And one of the most important skills you can have in customer service is empathy.

In this article, we’ll explore what empathy is, the benefits of using empathy in customer service, and how you can develop your empathy skills to become a more effective customer service representative.

What is Empathy, & Its Importance in Customer Service

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. In customer service, empathy means putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective.

It’s about understanding their frustrations, concerns, and needs, and responding with care and consideration.

Benefits of Empathy in Customer Service

Using empathy in customer service has a number of benefits, including:

  1. Building trust with customers: When customers feel that you understand and care about their concerns, they are more likely to trust you and your brand.
  2. Reducing customer churn: Customers are more likely to stick with a company that shows empathy and understanding, even when things go wrong.
  3. Improving customer satisfaction: Empathy can lead to more positive interactions and outcomes, which can increase overall customer satisfaction.
  4. Enhancing brand reputation: Companies that are known for their empathy and excellent customer service are often viewed more favorably by the public.

Developing Empathy in Customer Service

Empathy is a skill that can be developed over time. Here are some tips for developing your empathy skills in customer service:

Tips for Resolving Customer Complaints with Empathy

Here are some specific tips for using empathy to resolve customer complaints:

  1. Acknowledge the customer’s feelings: Let the customer know that you understand how they feel, why they might want a refund, and that you care about their concerns.
  2. Apologize sincerely: Apologize for any inconvenience or frustration the customer may have experienced. Be sincere and take responsibility for any mistakes that may have been made.
  3. Take ownership of the problem: Show the customer that you are committed to finding a solution to their problem.
  4. Offer a solution or resolution: Work with the customer to find a solution that meets their needs and resolves their complaint. Make the process to receive a refund easy and without tricks.
  5. Follow up with the customer: After the complaint has been resolved, follow up with the customer to ensure that they are satisfied with the outcome.
  6. Show genuine interest and concern: Your customers will be able to tell if you are faking empathy. It is important to show genuine interest and concern for their issue. Listen actively to their complaint and ask clarifying questions to ensure that you fully understand the situation. Show that you value their feedback and are committed to finding a solution.
  7. Apologize: Saying sorry can go a long way in resolving a customer’s complaint. Even if you are not at fault, expressing empathy and apologizing for the situation can help diffuse the situation and show the customer that you are taking their complaint seriously.
  8. Provide a solution: After you have listened to the customer and understood their issue, it is time to provide a solution. Work with the customer to find a solution that meets their needs and addresses their concerns. If you are not able to provide an immediate solution, let them know what steps you will take to resolve the issue and when they can expect to hear back from you.
  9. Follow up: Following up with the customer after their complaint has been resolved can help ensure their satisfaction and loyalty in the future. Reach out to them to make sure that the solution provided has met their needs and ask for feedback on how the process could be improved. This will show the customer that you care about their experience and are committed to providing excellent service.

Case Studies/Examples of Empathy in Customer Service

Want to see how empathetic responses help your bottom line? Here are some real-life examples of companies that use empathy effectively to resolve customer complaints:


Zappos, the online shoe retailer, is well-known for its exceptional customer service. Zappos has a policy of empowering its customer service representatives to go above and beyond to make customers happy. They train their reps to listen actively, be empathetic, and solve problems creatively. One of the keys to their success is their emphasis on empathy. They train their customer service representatives to actively listen to customers and understand their needs. Zappos representatives are also given the authority to provide creative solutions to customers’ problems, which often leads to a positive outcome.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is another company that places a high value on empathy in customer service. One example of this is their “Bags Fly Free” policy, which allows customers to check two bags for free. This policy was implemented after the company received feedback from customers about the frustration and expense of paying for checked bags. By listening to their customers and showing empathy, Southwest Airlines was able to implement a policy that has become a key differentiator for the company.


The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain is known for its luxurious accommodations and exceptional service. One of the ways they provide outstanding service is by demonstrating empathy towards their guests. For example, they train their employees to anticipate guests’ needs and provide personalized service. This might include remembering a guest’s name or providing a special amenity based on their preferences. By showing empathy towards their guests, the Ritz-Carlton creates an unforgettable experience that keeps customers coming back.


Apple is another company that values empathy in customer service. They are known for their customer-focused approach, which includes empathizing with their customers’ frustrations and providing personalized solutions. One example of this is their Genius Bar service, where customers can bring in their Apple devices for troubleshooting and repair. The Genius Bar technicians are trained to listen actively to customers and provide solutions that meet their needs.

These case studies demonstrate the power of empathy in customer service. By listening actively to customers, understanding their needs, and providing personalized solutions, companies can build trust, strengthen relationships, and create loyal customers that become lifelong fans of their brand.


As you can see, empathy is key to resolving customer complaints. It helps build trust, improves communication, and leads to better customer satisfaction. By following the steps outlined above, you can develop your empathy skills and provide effective solutions to your customers’ complaints. Remember, every customer interaction is an opportunity to build a relationship and strengthen your business.


I like to climb mountains, read Nietzsche, and explore the West Coast. I have a BA from York University (2003) in Toronto, Canada, and yet on this site I sometimes spell like an American (know your audience). Thank you. Thank you very much.

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