The Importance of Empathy in Support of Contextual Data

For many years, customer empathy was not a priority during the support experience. However, that is no longer the case, especially if you consider that organizations that increase retention by 5 percent, increase profits by as much as 95 percent. That's a big number, and it's far more difficult and time-consuming to get new customers than to keep existing ones.

The dynamics of customer support are changing as people want to interact, they want more real-time conversations and solutions. What they don't want is to wait 24 hours for a response to a ticket, and frequently an initial response can go beyond 24 hours. This is why empathy has become so important: There is a real demand for interaction in a real-time environment. Gartner estimates that if you provide value and empathy to a customer, the probability of that customer staying is 82 percent; if you don't, that figure drops to 27 percent. One would say that's a huge incentive. The industry requirement for empathy was occurring prior to the pandemic, but COVID expedited it.

Increasing Brand Loyalty

Empathy drives brand loyalty and clearly impacts the lifetime value of customers. It's a value-driven capability. Saying "How can I help you?" if the user has been passed from pillar to past doesn't drive brand loyalty. Quite the opposite; it causes frustration and resentment.

Brand loyalty is detrimentally affected if you are ignorant to the customer journey to date. Customers don't want to be asked what the problem is or when it first occurred? The way forward is empathizing and saying, "I understand you have this issue, and it's happened three times." In the perfect scenario, the agent offers an option and resolves the problem. That type of interaction creates a positive experience and makes the customer feel important and valued, which ultimately drives loyalty and repeat sales.

When discussing empathy, we also have to take into account personalization. The support rep conversation is so much better if you have data on the segment from which customers are coming, past interactions, feature requests they wanted, and what they were doing with the product before they reached out. Personalization, like empathy, is driven by stitching data sources together.

How do you empower your front-line agents with this kind of information to deliver personalization and empathy?&

The two main fundamentals to achieving this are context and speed. This is what customers expect from all digital businesses today. With much of the buying cycle being managed digitally or with little human interaction, it is in customer support that many companies can and should differentiate.

But it is also about empowering the customer. Many of them will be intellectual users and tech-savvy and want to engage on their own terms. Whether it's through chat, phone, or a live agent, they want options and don't want to be restricted in how they speak to the company. If they reach out to a human being, they want a personalized and empathetic experience. There is so much content now in our digital world; it's all about finding the right data in real-time to achieve this.

To make this happen you don't have to inundate agents with content, because artificial intelligence can be used to present the most appropriate information and drive intelligent insights. However, an obstacle to achieving empathy can be the siloed tools organizations have.

Empathy is difficult to achieve if data is siloed and can't be shared. In addition, if people and processes are siloed, the problem only escalates. A siloed approach also leads to loss of information and a pile of backlogs. This is a result of no contextualized understanding of where the customer is coming from, which increases handle time and overall cost. And throwing bodies at the issue is not the answer.

How to Achieve Empathy

One solution is to use an automated support data platform that can contextualize data. This enables support representatives to make decisions faster. By learning from collaborations across support, development, and engineering, it transforms the customer support experience by providing insights from broad sets of data and recommendations embedded in intelligent workflows. These intelligent operations upskill representatives with correlated product insights and actions within tools such as Zendesk, Jira, and Salesforce. Real-time insights drawn from people, process, and tooling interaction also helps support managers be more effective in monitoring the state of their service operations.

For example, if you have interactions in a customer success tool and contextualize these to your agents in real time, that can provide actionable insights. Or when a ticket is generated, the platform can send agents trending bugs and feature requests that relate to that customer. In either case, the value is clear.

Achieving empathy is a data problem, and the answer is contextualizing data from a wide array of sources and intelligently resurfacing it to agents, customer success managers, leaders, engineers, etc., to help them understand exactly where customers are in their journeys. The next step is to drive sentiment from every interaction. Sentiment can be measured in terms of language used, whether it be in a chat, email, or a ticket, as we all use angry or happy words. And sentiment can be measured through subscriptions or renewals.

Therefore, to succeed in establishing empathy, you need to contextualize, you need to map the customer journey and drive positive sentiment from every interaction. You don&'t want to bombard agents and customer success managers with reams of information; it has to be tailored, recommended data. Intelligent support operations not only resolve issues on the front lines but completely close the loop with the customer. That engagement and enablement is hugely important to customers.

Empathy in customer support is now a must have, as it can be such a big differentiator. Eighty-nine percent of companies compete on the quality of customer service, which demonstrates the strategic value of empathy. Through the use of contextual awareness, organizations can make a positive difference in customers' days and establish loyal customers for life.

Being empathetic should be a no-brainer. It protects revenue, avoids losses, and enhances the reputation of the company. By using technology, empathy can become commonplace and a clear competitive advantage. As we all know all too well, customers have choices and are even willing to pay more for a good customer experience. Technology is the enabler for a new customer support experience.

Somya Kapoor is co-founder and CEO of TheLoops.