Empathy is a fundamental human ability to understand and share feelings with another person. Today, it is a key element of customer experience (CX) optimization and becomes essential in ensuring customers have positive associations with brands. That’s why Soul Machines brings a human face to its customer-facing AI and chatbots like Replika are designed to be ‘AI companions who care’.

How does empathy improve CX?

While chatbots can help solve queries, a 2019 CGS survey revealed that 86% of people still preferred talking to human agents over chatbots. Empathy seems to be a key part of the reason.

Thus, empathy improves CX as it helps:

  • Understand customers. One of the central theses of Antonio Damasio’s Descartes’ Error is the idea that we are not thinking machines. Instead, we are feeling machines that think. This philosophy applies to customers and human agents who can empathize with the frustration or hopelessness a customer might feel during an interaction.
  • Respond to non-verbal cues. Where chatbots fail to pick up non-verbal cues, human agents can adjust their responses to match the customer’s attitude and disposition. This helps reduce and even avoid conflicts. Such attention to detail also allows agents to preempt a customer’s actions/ reactions through the appropriate response.
  • Show customers that they are understood. If understanding customers is one side of a coin, showing them that you understand is the other. For example, Amazon uses customer service scripts that involve reassuring the customer that the agent understands how frustrating an experience may be. Such measures create an environment of empathy, setting the stage for a more positive interaction.
  • Build a mutually responsive approach. Customers speaking to a human agent who understands them may also be more inclined to extend similar empathy to the agent. For example, if they reach out to 24-hour customer support, they are likely to understand when an agent says that the seller is unavailable at that time.

How to ensure empathy

For businesses that believe in a customer-first approach, designing an empathy-driven customer experience is critical. Here are some steps that companies and customer support agents can take to build such an experience:

  • Acknowledge and actively combat biases. Human agents come with emotions and with biases – for example, dismissing older people’s concerns due to their age. Acknowledging and confronting such biases while training helps keep them in check and even eliminate them.
  • Engage in empathy-based exercises. Company retreats or learning sessions for the customer support team can include volunteering or role-play games to improve empathy among the staff.
  • Keep tone in check. Meeting the customer where they are emotionally, is essential. If the customer is upset, feel upset on their behalf. If they are satisfied, be happy with them. If they are angry, allow them to express their frustration before adopting a solution-oriented approach.
  • Provide personalized responses. Assure customers that you will handle their grievance by personalizing the response. For instance, instead of saying the team will handle their issue, use phrases like, “I will forward this to my team and ensure it is handled.” Such choice of words reassures the person and serves to build trust.
  • Get reviews. Send a feedback form or ask a customer for feedback after every interaction to learn what can be better. This practice can work wonders in improving CX.

Acquiring a new customer can be between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones. Ensuring a good CX also promises higher customer retention and fosters loyalty – essential for business success.

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