How to Achieve Empathetic Customer Experiences Through Omnichannel Engagement

The topic of empathy has risen to the forefront of customer service, especially in the past year. The idea of empathy is straightforward: having an understanding of what another person is feeling or experiencing. This simple, but powerful, skill amplified in importance when the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic hit and every consumer was faced with unique mental, physical, and financial difficulties that bled into every aspect of life.

This worldwide shift toward empathy has had incredible presence and importance in customer service operations, especially in the contact center. As customers shifted from interacting with businesses in person to primarily online, organizations realized quickly that they needed to adjust their strategies to meet customers where they were, digitally and emotionally.

During the past year we have increasingly seen customer service managers shifting value away from time to resolution in favor of developing empathetic relationships with customers, allowing agents to take longer to resolve queries. As a result, the average chat duration increased by 18 percent in 2020, according to data from Comm100's 2021 Live Chat Benchmark Report, pulled from more than 60 million global customer service interactions.

While most organizations realize the value of building relationships with customers, some need support in determining where to start, especially at a time when digital interactions are the only interactions people have with an organization.

The Omnichannel Solution

The modern consumer is on the go and craves convenience first and foremost. Whether it's asking a question at a bank or ordering takeout from a local restaurant, everyone is busy and preoccupied and looking to interact with businesses in a way that suits themselves. Customer-centric businesses know they need to be where their consumers are, and this really is at the root of empathy in customer service. As a first step, businesses need to put themselves in their customers' shoes and look at what they want from an interaction, which usually starts with companies being where they are and not being unnecessarily difficult to reach. When tech-savvy customers want a quick answer to a question, they expect to be able to direct message an organization on Instagram or start a Facebook chat and get a timely response. Once this expectation is met, organizations can get deeper into the genuine interactions.

To achieve this, implementing an omnichannel solution that has touchpoints across all digital platforms, including Facebook Chat, Twitter DMs, email, and live chat on the website, is key in reaching every possible audience on their preferred channels. When a company is on every channel, customers don’t have to go searching for a way to reach it, enabling a more effective exchange. Even more, when a company has a solution in place to aggregate all communications across all channels, ensuring no customer interactions go unnoticed, it will establish another layer of trust and loyalty with customers.

Humanizing the Experience

Being more than a year into various levels of stay-at-home and quarantine restrictions, people are craving in-person interactions. People want to feel like the companies with which they do business can identify them as unique individuals with different needs and preferences. Until now, companies have struggled to achieve this, but little do they know, it can be obtained without investing heavily in artificial intelligence and complicated tech solutions.

Comprehensive live chat solutions are affordable and can help businesses achieve a level of humanization and personalization that customers will appreciate. Live chat solutions can capture information from each customer across his unique journey, including any previous phone or chat interactions, what he clicked on and pages he visited on the website, whether he had a similar issue in the past, account history, and more. This information is accumulated and organized in a singular place for customer service agents to reference when they get on chat with customers.

The conversations are also prefaced with pre-chat surveys within the live chat window facilitated by a chatbot. The goal of the pre-chat is to figure out what the customer really needs or wants. Does she need a password reset on an online banking app? Does he need a refund on an incorrect online order? Once it is clear what the customer wants to achieve, the information already gathered by the system can be better used as a guide for agents to achieve customer success.>

With this wealth of knowledge from the jump, agents can use historic information to provide well-informed, personalized answers and recommendations. It also eliminates the need for repetitive, frustrating questions on both sides, allowing customers to feel like they are being heard and have true relationships with the company. To take it a step further, live chat that incorporates video can be a great solution to provide genuine one-to-one connections with customers without them having to visit in person.

Empathy has always been crucial in the personal human existence, but as the pandemic has caused lasting changes in the way we interact and consumer expectations continue to rise and become complicated, organizations that provide empathetic, considerate human interactions will thrive.

Jeff Epstein is vice president of strategy and marketing at Comm100.