Why Empathy Is Necessary for Good CX

The pandemic has caused significant changes across every industry, bringing forth new customer expectations requiring businesses to adapt. The customer experience (CX) industry is no different, with customers now craving empathetic experiences and human connection when tackling issues.

Accenture data shows that during periods of crisis, 58 percent more customers prefer using phone services to solve urgent issues than other channels. Compassion and connection can save a relationship in crisis and help build customer loyalty.

Chatbots can reduce wait time, improve self-service, speed up resolution times, and drive cost-optimization. While this solves many customer service challenges, changing consumer demands have caused businesses to rethink their automation strategies.

Companies today must provide a human connection that includes an empathetic response. These were two key takeaways that appeared in our most recent report, which featured interviews with 15 global customer experience leaders from companies like Microsoft, eBay, and Deloitte. Human-led strategies, where humans are considered part of the customer journey, can help balance chatbot interactions.

Not only does this approach amplify the consumer lifecycle, but it also gives organizations a distinct point of differentiation. Companies that focus on providing genuine human connection will have an advantage over businesses that aren't getting this part of their customer experience right.

Communication with people is important to acquiring and retaining customers and building brand loyalty and advocacy.

According to our research, consumers prefer to purchase from companies with customer-led services, as 70 percent of customers said they would trust customer service agents more if they were also customers themselves.

This model, also known as gig customer service (GigCX), can be applied to several industries. It's ideal for those providing customer service where products are complex, such as in the consumer electronics industry. By adopting alternative models, it prevents businesses from having to train customer service teams, as they already hold deep knowledge of the product or service.

In turn, businesses can go way beyond simple transactional interactions. Since agents are passionate about and love the company, they're better placed to assist the customer. Plus, this passion shines through in the empathetic, genuine responses they provide.

If we compare this to a chatbot, it's clear that automation can sometimes come at the mercy of customer satisfaction. Forbes research recently highlighted this very point, showing that chatbots can lead to an 80 percent decline in customer satisfaction.

Automation might guarantee speed, but it inherently lacks the contextual knowledge and understanding that humans hold. Putting great communication and empathy at the heart of CX strategies is, therefore, pivotal for companies looking to grow.

Incorporating more empathy into the customer experience might require companies to redefine how they measure success. For example, quick resolution time—long a standard for tracking efficiency in the contact center—can be disastrously applied when it disrupts human connection in an otherwise automated customer journey. Letting go of these traditional success metrics provides the opportunity to embrace new measurements for tracking success.

What will grow in importance is customer lifetime value, whereby agents can develop real connections with customers. Measuring against a key performance indicator that focuses on the value of a long-term relationship between company and customer can align resources and change processes and behavior across the company. This offers an opportunity to redesign operations and place customers at the heart of the customer experience.

No doubt, we have seen how the pandemic has changed the customer service industry. It led to an increase in the value of human connections during a time when many businesses were experimenting or deploying chatbots or other online self-service options.

The Daily Mail cites this change in consumer behavior as one of the key drivers in the call center boom during lockdown, with more people looking for advice, working on projects themselves, late-night shopping, and more. This also demonstrates a growing desire for connectedness following elongated isolation periods.

Focusing on the idea of customer success will also be key, and it can't be achieved with automation alone.

Already, companies are beginning to make use of their most knowledgeable customers and brand advocates to help other customers retain more value from their products and services at every point in the customer journey. Data from a recent survey we conducted showed that 72 percent of customer service managers are planning to employ gig talent to customer service or sales operations within the next two years.

Authentic, real-time responses are the best way to help coach someone on how to do something or help them get set up. Automation can tackle simple tasks, but for valuable interactions, companies need to humanize their processes to effectively engage with customers. These human interactions are more likely to keep customers longer, increase their spending over time, and extend their lifetime value.

Artificial intelligence will always have a role to play in enhancing customer experience, but it cannot be considered the sole solution. With consumers preferring personal and human interactions, relying on chatbots alone will simply not work.

Roger Beadle is CEO of Limitless.