Boosting empathetic experiences for customers with AI

Someone shaking hands with an AI through a laptop screen.
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The way we interact with brands has come firmly into focus over the past 20 months. As a result of the pandemic, consumer expectations have shifted enormously, which has resulted in many consumers becoming digitally fluent or having at least tried a digital-first service. This shift to digital services has meant that consumers now expect organizations to be available when and where they need support as a bare minimum. Alongside this, customers expect their issues to be met with empathy when they reach out, with our research revealing that over two thirds of UK consumers (69 percent) believe it is important for brands to act with empathy.

About the author

Helen Briggs is Senior Vice President and General Manager for EMEA at Genesys.

While this sounds like a simple proposition, treating customers with empathy cannot be achieved passively and requires an active strategy and investment. Businesses can only show empathy by providing personalized experiences that fit each individual customer needs and provide meaningful solutions to their problems. And with 42 percent of consumers reporting that they are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that is empathetic, businesses need to make sure they’re technologically equipped to respond to increased interactions with customers.

From reactive to proactive

Businesses need to accelerate their digitization, automation, and AI strategies to react to these changing expectations to help them provide consistent empathetic experiences at scale. By doing so, companies can actively listen to customers, better predict their needs, and automate repetitive tasks that allow staff to handle complex interactions that require empathy.

AI has real potential to transform the way businesses provide empathetic experiences to customers. By harnessing the technology to predict the best possible time to engage with consumers, organizations can foster deep and meaningful relationships. Predictive capabilities also allow businesses to provide real-time engagement to consumers that can enable businesses to spot any potential issues before the customer knows they have a problem.

By making it possible for businesses to predict and act versus simply respond, it can help companies transform their customer service operations from a cost center to a profit center, whilst delivering smarter services, and facilitate better overall decision-making. This will ultimately make businesses more competitive.

Empathy requires effective use of data

To succeed in creating empathetic environments, organizations need to use the right combination of information to improve experiences. This involves using insights from the entire customer journey (marketing, sales, service), and across every channel. Crucially it also means tying information together across systems – from contact centers to CRM to marketing automation. This enables brands to create a holistic view of the customer and use AI to continually inform and improve performance based on the breadth of insights available.

Though this seamless proposition has been talked about for some time, businesses can now use AI capabilities to improve the fluidity of the customer experience more than ever, as well as serve customers with better context and predict the optimum desired outcome based on behavior, history and intent. Predictive insights are essential when creating an empathetic system, as they ultimately augment and continually improve customer experience use cases.

Don’t replace your staff, empower them

AI enables employees to better anticipate customer needs and personalize interactions, by providing visibility into their holistic experiences. This helps to simplify complex processes and remove repetitive tasks from to do lists. For instance, AI-powered chatbots and voicebots are able to answer common inbound questions, freeing up agents’ time for more important tasks and speeding up the time taken by the customer to find the required information. In the event that a bot can’t solve the query, the customer is connected with the appropriate employee, with full contextual information in real-time to enable better and personalized support.

In addition to this, AI technologies can effectively act as a personal assistant to contact center staff, ‘listening’ in on calls and offering the latest knowledge articles relevant to the issue. The technology has matured to the point that it can identify customer sentiment and determine if any follow-up actions are required – meaning there is less chance for human error and customers are met with a much more reliable service.

The importance of AI to deliver empathy

While AI may not be able to express empathy itself (yet), the right AI solution can help facilitate an organization's delivery of empathetic experiences. However, delivering empathetic customer experiences is far from simple. Businesses must be available across a range of communication channels, be capable of handling and continuing numerous intermittent customer conversations over extended periods of time and deliver quality results among increasing customer expectations.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to achieve this with automation alone. Businesses must look to underpin their digital experiences with AI, while also ensuring they have the capabilities, strategy and skills in place needed to make the most of their AI aspirations and stand them in the best possible position to truly differentiate themselves from the competition.

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Helen Briggs is Senior Vice President and General Manager for EMEA at Genesys.