Chatbots, robots, AI and analytics are among the innovations that businesses are using to directly improve their customer experience delivery. Customer experience (also known as CX) is the central aim of developing and adopting new technology because amazing customer experiences directly power your business goals.
However, in this new business battleground (1), the human element should not be replaced. Customers prefer human interaction (2) either on the phone or face to face. This is especially true in more complicated situations such as when making a complaint or resolving an embarrassing matter.
But what is needed in these situations that customers prefer, and technology cannot provide?
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another
The latest KPMG Nunwood report on customer experience defines empathy as “achieving an understanding of the customer’s circumstances to drive rapport” and is one of the Six Pillars that drive customer experience. This year, the highest ranking companies overall for customer experience scored the highest in their ability to empathise, and empathy has improved the most.
Companies developing the capacity for empathy are the most likely to improve their bottom line, and improve customer loyalty and advocacy.
Positive brand experiences and brand loyalty are associated with the emotion “satisfaction”, and “anger” with bad experiences, in a recent CX Trends Report on customer experience, emotion and personalisation (3).
The ability to identify and understand emotions - so crucial to the customer experience - is precisely what technology cannot do. AI is not good at dealing with complaints, sarcasm or emotion. A statement such as “great service” can have an opposite meaning depending on tone of voice, for example. However, technology can help empower your employees to be more empathetic.
Here’s a few ways businesses are using technology to improve the empathy element:
- Collect data on customers’ preferences so you can deliver the best experience to individual customers across different channels and get to know your customer better.
- Skills-based or last-agent routing in contact centres can ensure customers get through to the right person straight away and make a connection quicker.
- The latest video conferencing can provide high quality, fast connection and cut down on travel time and cost, while providing personal, human interaction as if you were in the same room.
- Call recording can be used to analyse tone of voice and emotion at different stages of the customer journeys retrospectively, to improve service and anticipate problems in the future.
So, the debate on how many customer service jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence might be missing the point.
This is the question that Customer Experience Managers ask most frequently:
“If human interaction is what drives emotionally meaningful customer experiences, how do we compete in a digital future?”
Ultimately, amazing customer experiences for business can only be created with empathy in the most difficult situations. The best innovations in technology need to support this human ability, not replace it. Businesses will win the customer experience battle when they strike the right balance between the efficiencies of technology and the emotions of humans, and these businesses will earn a better reputation, customer advocacy, loyalty and revenue growth.
(1) Forbes, 2016: “Customer Experience Is The New Battleground In Business”, Tim Clark
(2) Echo Managed Services, 2015 Report: “What Your Customers Want In A World Full of Contact Channels”
(3) InMoment: CX Trends Report 2017