Blog: How Empathy Affects Customer Satisfaction Scores

The COVID-19 pandemic forced organisations to adopt work-from-home models, while customers fled to digital channels. The nature of the crisis made personalisation and empathy even more critical to the customer relationship.

Contact centres’ innermost secrets

Personalisation takes a variety of forms. In the physical world, it’s about caring for the customer as an individual. On digital channels, companies focus decision-making on singletons and their needs. For example, e-commerce players reset the bar with customised offers, while technological innovation enabled radical operating model reinvention.

That includes artificial intelligence (AI) in all senses: such as motors that make bots and chats operate, the analytical engine that distils meaning from raw data, logical processes mimicking human thought, and software tools automating things that once only humans could do. All these – and many more – are the innermost secrets of today’s contact centres.

Empathy’s role in personalisation

A study of 504 consumers by MyCustomer and Genesys in 2021 examined how successfully today’s organisations are catering to their customers’ emotional requirements, and how striving for empathy impacts customer relationships. The study defines empathy as the ability to understand other people’s emotions and imagine what they are thinking or feeling, and why.

Is empathy essential? You bet. Nearly 75 percent of respondents believe it’s very important there is compassion during customer service interactions. And well over one-third said their emotional state was neither understood nor acknowledged. Organisations must wake up to the fact that empathy is not about ‘training people to be sympathetic’. It has strong physical and psychological angles. AI is key to agents providing insightful answers and helping customers achieve what they want.

Richard McCrossan, strategic business director at Genesys, says: “Organisations should also change how they recognise their employees. Move away from cost-centric measures like average handle time, and move to customer-centric measures like NPS. And perhaps consider gamifying your agents so their bonus is tied to empathy outcomes.” Now, thanks to the cloud, even small businesses can capitalise on these latest techniques and those certain to follow.

Similar issues in retail banking

Accenture took the personalisation microscope to the retail financial services industry with its Banking on empathy study in 2021. Like other industries the survey indicated a significant shift to digital, with 50 percent of consumers interacting through mobile apps or websites at least once a week, up from 32 percent two years ago. Banks are balancing two imperatives: becoming more empathetic and more digital. Accenture believes industry players reconciling those things will reap significant financial rewards.

The survey found empathy leaders with strong capabilities for understanding and responding to the emotional states of their customers outperformed their peers. However, delivering more human and helpful service in a scalable way is hard for banks that depend on branches. Some 63 percent believe the branch is the most effective channel for customers to resolve challenges; interactions happening there will matter most to customers’ perceptions. Accenture says this will see investment in capabilities promoting empathetic experiences. At the core is the ability to anticipate people’s needs without questioning them. Yet, according to Accenture, “only three in 10 banks are very confident they can sense customer’s emotional outlook about their financial and personal situations without asking them directly”.

More empathetic CX and EX effects

In the closing paragraphs, let’s take the helicopter view of tools required to engage customers with empathy, including data analytics and AI. The infographic at Figure 1 from the Genesys website, invites viewers to look at a customer scenario to see how such techniques enhance both customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX).

Empathy blog Figure 1

Figure 1: Deployment of AI tools powering the empathetic contact centre at all points along the customer journey.

Among the above, Forecasting and Scheduling is increasingly being used in hybrid models, which combine contact centre-based agents with home workers, sometimes on micro-shifts to fill demand-driven resource gaps. Those groups will be able to access empathetic tools available in today’s contact centre environments, such as predictive routing and business intelligence.

The recent MyCustomer and Genesys report said making your customer feel remembered, heard, and understood is the empathetic customer experience foundation. Giving every customer what they want every time through Experience as a Service, the report said 70 percent of the customers surveyed were very satisfied when their query was resolved with empathy.

Even more important was that figure rose to 77 percent in terms of the effect on brand perception. That confirms that, while enabled by technology, Experience-as-a-Service is an engagement made for employees’ good, for customers’ good and for the good of the business. In creating a connection that earns customer loyalty across interactions and time, the report also said, “Loyalty leaders grow revenues 2½ times as fast as industry peers.”

Leaving the final words to Accenture: “Empathetic banks are differentiated by their ability to gather data and use the subsequent insights to engage their customers. They will offer choices based on emotional states. They constantly collect data that helps anticipate the assistance a customer might require.” This truism is not unique to financial services. It applies to all contact centre scenarios and will become the key differentiator as we accelerate towards 2025.

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Stan Tilling