Mitigating system-based frustration is important within computer-based learning contexts. In two experimental studies, students answered online survey items and were confronted by a frustrating obstacle—an error message pop-up window that blocked them from answering the items. In the first study, “Survey Sam,” an animated interface agent was present throughout the survey, and at the end delivered an affective message (apologetic or empathetic) or remained silent. Results revealed that the presence of either message led students to attribute the cause of their frustration to the program instead of to themselves. Further, participants receiving the empathetic message rated Survey Sam as significantly more believable and sincere. The second study investigated the impact of the visual presence of the agent by providing identical messages but with voice only. Results reinforced the value of the agent’s visual preference as more effective than voice only, particularly for the empathetic message.