In person, people naturally display empathy and active listening through gestures, facial expressions, and a general energy around it. But without that face-to-face interaction, when we’re behind a screen communicating with a customer, how to do we convey this?

Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself. — Mohsin Hamid

Buffer has a pretty unique culture that carries through how we live our lives and everything we do as a team. One of our values is to Listen First, then Listen More; when it comes to customer support, this can be easy to do, but hard to demonstrate.

Active listening takes many forms

In person, we communicate “active listening” with body language such as leaning closer, nodding our heads, having an open posture or making steady eye contact 👀.

When speaking over the phone, we change our tone of voice or use verbal affirmations such as a simple “uh-huh” or “ahh” to show we’re following along. But, to show that we’re really listening, certain kinds of phrases tend to make their way into the conversation.

These might sound like:

  • “Wow! That must be so…”
  • “I understand how you feel…”
  • “It sounds like…”
  • “I’ve felt that way too.”
  • “I can sense that you’re feeling…”
  • “Let me see if I understand correctly…”
  • “What I hear you saying is…”

Same principals, different form

The great news is that these same phrases that show empathy face-to-face can also be used to show support for a customer’s situation though text, whether it be when tweeting with customers, or when replying to their emails.

Put simply, to demonstrate active listening, it’s about showing customers we hear them, and care about helping.

Other actions might be as simple as naming the problem/topic specifically or as important as addressing their feelings, especially if they are frustrated or confused. This is a huge window of opportunity to show that you are listening, you recognize how they might be feeling, and that you are working to understand them fully to bring a speedy solution.

Don’t forget to say thank you

Last but not certainly not least, don’t forget to say thank you! Expressing gratitude is a great way to show you’re listening.

Thanking someone for their patience while you find an answer for them, thanking ‘em for sticking with you while you work out a sticky issue or just saying thank you for being an awesome customer can show that you’re genuinely interested in speaking with them and glad they took the time to reach out 😀

Over to you

We all have different ways of showing this sort of empathy through support, and it’d be awesome to hear how you do it! Let us know on Twitter how you demonstrate active listening through social media!