GREAT Empathy

How to challenge with empathy

There are times when you will need to challenge your customer, not in a rude or disrespectful way, but in a way that helps the customer see a situation in a different light. Key to protecting your ongoing relationship with your customer is to challenge with tact and with empathy.

Here are three strategies to help you to challenge your customer in an empathic, trust-building way:

  1. Strike the balance between courage and consideration

Striking the balance can be tricky, but getting the balance right means that we are brave enough to challenge the customer and considerate in how we do this. Too much courage and not enough consideration means that we can come across as aggressive and pushy; too much consideration and not enough courage means that we aren’t brave enough to challenge the customer at all, meaning they leave the interaction without the full, accurate picture.

When there is a balance of high courage and consideration, we listen to the customer and consider their concerns, needs and unique circumstances. We demonstrate that we understand and that we’re focused on doing the right thing by them which is why we want to share with them further information or perspectives. The impact of this that the customer feels valued and listened to, cared for and fully informed and confident in their next steps

  1. Challenge with empathy

There are three simple steps to this…

  • Step One: Listen and acknowledge
    • Before diving into challenging a customer’s perspective, it is important to listen closely to your customer and then acknowledge their perspective. This shows that you value and are considering their point of view in your suggestion or proposal.
  • Step 2: Ask Permission
    • A challenge can lack tact and empathy if it isn’t positioned correctly.
    • Seeking permission from the customer to offer a different perspective or stating your intent in challenging their thinking gives you licence to proceed with your information meaning the customer is much more likely to listen and consider it.
  • Step 3: Share New Perspective/Knowledge
    • Now you can state your information or alternative perspective for consideration. Make sure you keep your intent coming from a good place as you do this – working in the customers best interests. Make it about them and not about you. This is what we mean by empathy.
  1. Warmth + Competence = Trust

According to leading psychologists, trust is built by demonstrating warmth and competence. However, we know that leading with warmth is key to this as leading with competence can come across as bullish and pushy.

Competence is still very important though but we only judge it after deciding whether or not we trust someone first.

Challenging with empathy is trust-building. Showing your customer that you value their opinion and that you want to do what’s right for them is trust-building. Leading with warmth means that you don’t bulldoze your customer with process or use process as an excuse not to empathise. Take the time to fully understand your customer’s situation and their understanding of it, and show true care, warmth and empathy when sharing a new perspective with them.


Take a look at our GREAT Empathy programme and if you’d like to explore this topic or any other aspect of customer service training then please do give us a call on 01582 463464. We’re always here to help.

Categories: Customer service

Recomended Posts