Industry Expertise · April 29, 2021

How to Empathize With Customers During Difficult Times

Living with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may have become the new normal, but everyone is still feeling the economic, social and health-related repercussions of the virus. This creates a major problem for companies, as nearly every customer base is concerned about the unprecedented issues created by the pandemic. How do you authentically and meaningfully engage with customers when there's so much change and uncertainty on their minds?

To ensure your company is able to meet customers' needs while you're adapting your business strategy to COVID-19, you can focus on how to empathize with customers. Here's how empathy in business communication can help your customers and your company survive and thrive during this difficult time.

Prioritize communication

You may have noticed that many bank sites currently have a banner at the top of their home page saying that customers who experience COVID-19-related financial distress can click for information about how to get help. This common choice illustrates the importance of proactively communicating critical information.

Customers may feel overwhelmed and concerned about how to afford your products or services. They may even be solely focused on fundamental issues, such as how to meet the responsibilities of their day-to-day lives during this crisis. By making your current policies abundantly clear and illustrating how customers can make changes or reach customer service agents, you can help assuage their worries and show that your company is there for them.

Listen authentically

Customers can easily see through canned empathy that doesn't feel genuine. Teach your staff how to empathize with customers by listening fully and authentically. That means working to understand the concerns of your customers—including those that reach out to you and those that don't.

Part of listening authentically is working to make any changes you can that will meet the new needs your customers have expressed. For example, let's say your customers are concerned about their inability to handle in-person business with you. Listening to their specific needs and wants for handling business remotely and working to meet those requests will let your customers see how much you value their business and input.

Offer what certainty you can

Part of what makes your customers' current situation so nerve-wracking is simply not knowing what to expect. Companies can provide empathy in business communication if they acknowledge the uncertainty of the moment while providing whatever certainty they can.

For instance, your company may not be able to provide concrete guarantees about when things will get back to normal for anything from opening in-person transactions to adding new services. Like everyone else, it's quite possible you just don't know. However, you can make it clear to your customers that they can always count on excellent service, regardless of the circumstances, and that you'll remain a reliable resource for them. This kind of assurance will not only help your customers to feel confident about your business during an uncertain time, but they'll remember your steadfast response even after the end of the COVID-19 crisis.

Building strong customer relationships

Businesses that lead with empathy will be well-positioned to weather this current crisis and emerge with loyal customers and employees. Anticipating the communication needs of your customers, listening to their concerns and providing them with whatever certainty you can will go a long way in reassuring your clientele and maintaining your own business needs, both now and in the future.


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