There was a good story on National Public Radio (my source of daily news) about Insurance companies hiring empathy trainers to get their call center representatives ready for the upcoming changes in the health care industry. With the passage of the health care reforms (as I understand it) individuals will at some point be able to change who they use for health care insurance. No longer will you be tied to the insurance company that your employer selects. Thus the insurance companies will have much more motivation to keep their individual customers happy.
Being in the customer service business ourselves, we know how important it is to keep your customers happy. Happy customers tend to stay with you and are much more likely to recommend you to the church down the street. Empathy is a part customer service, but to me there is a whole lot more to providing good service. I believe that good service comes more from a company culture of taking care of your customers than from some training on how to make empathic statements. You need to be there when they need assistance, provide courteous and competent staff, address mistakes when they happen, and always work to improve your products and services.
I wish all the insurance companies good luck as they work to improve their customer service (please be better than the phone companies) and I look forward to shopping around someday.
PS. NPR provided a list of tips on making a service call which can help you better navigate calling any service organization, even ACS.