In this guest post, Genesys’s APAC vice president Mark Buckley (lead image), says brand empathy will be the future of CX and offers his expert tips on getting brands there…
The role of customer experience in building brand loyalty and generating word-of-mouth referrals is nothing new. Before digital advertising and marketing, there was good old-fashioned conversation – back when business owners knew their customers personally.
The modern day demands of scale and expansion in most industry verticals might have made the traditional approach more difficult to attain, but that doesn’t mean its principles are no longer relevant or of value.
Indeed, the traditional approach to customer engagement may have become more important than ever.
In an age of online forums and marketplace reviews, social media and instant messaging, when customers and even employees can publicly vent their gripes about companies they deal with, it doesn’t take much for a single poor customer experience to translate into a widespread shift in brand sentiment.
With brands’ reputations now largely in the hands of consumers, companies can suffer as a result of poor customer experiences. This is why the value of traditional customer engagement remains important. The empathy leveraged in the kind of neighbourly interaction that once graced the local corner shop still stands as a key to greater customer loyalty.
Businesses are largely aware of this factor and understand the value that customer experience plays in terms of brand equity and loyalty. But not all businesses go about creating or ensuring a certain level of customer experience in the right way. Sometimes, outdated business models and assumptions are still taken as gospel, which can hamper the level of customer familiarity necessary to keep consumers onside in today’s market. Indeed, customer experience may still be viewed by some executives through the prism of conventional metrics such as cost and efficiency.
This can be a mistake. By taking a purely cost- and efficiency-focused approach to customer experience, time-saving measures aimed at streamlining inbound inquiries, for example, may end up making the customer experience worse, not better, despite shorter handling times.
This is why it’s important to weave empathy into customer experience. Lowering inbound call handling times through automation may reduce the time spent on the phone by customers, but it might lead to frustration if the customer simply wants to be heard and understood by the company with which it is dealing.
Orchestrating empathy in business
It isn’t necessarily investment, technology or attention from leadership that is missing from businesses that tend to struggle with effective customer experience, but rather the right perspective. And empathy is all about perspective.
Not to be mistaken for sympathy, empathy is the simple – and eminently human – process of embarking on a shift in orientation towards the experience of another person, to understand the world from their perspective and act accordingly.
Customers who are empathetically engaged are more loyal, research from Genesys has revealed. Clearly, the power of empathy can help businesses gain a competitive edge. But it’s often overlooked. Nearly half of consumers surveyed in a Genesys study said the companies they regularly do business with don’t show them enough empathy when delivering customer service.
This is a problem. Because, as products and services become increasingly commoditised, empathy has the potential to be an ever-growing source of competitive differentiation and value for brands.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take much effort to inject some empathy into customer-facing processes and engagement, but it does take some deliberate and conscious steps to make sure it is implemented effectively. Genesys research has found that nearly 50 per cent of consumers feel more connected to companies that remember them – just one aspect of an empathetic approach to customer engagement.
Five systems for empathy at scale
When it comes to orchestrating empathy in a business at scale, there is an established model that businesses can follow to help them identify where they are on the journey towards empathy centricity and chart their next growth path. This model, developed by Genesys, features five categories of systems: listening; understanding and prediction; action; learning; and success, which can help to shape a brand’s pathway to more empathetic customer engagement.
Systems of listening involve the collection of information about who a customer is, where they’ve been and what’s happening to them now. Companies with advanced systems of listening typically use artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced technology to develop a deep understanding of their customers.
- Understanding and prediction
Systems of understanding and prediction can transform the data layer across a business to create meaningful information. People-centred, empathetic organisations work to prioritise personalised customer and employee experiences. They also recognise that AI is fundamental to dynamic personalisation across channels and touchpoints.
Systems of action equip companies to engage at the right moment, in the right channel, with the right context. Businesses that are leaders in this space gather insights from individual customers and employees, and use AI to match each customer-employee interaction based on the highest probability for a successful business outcome.
Systems of learning capture and monitor the outcomes of interactions for continuous improvement. This includes ‘voice of the customer’ data as well as progress toward business goals. Leaders in this system typically capture customer sentiment and feedback at varying levels, during interactions and after.
Systems of success evaluate an organisation’s commitment to a people-centric approach and its ability to execute projects and drive change. To help organisations make the transformation to a people-centric, empathetic model, leaders prioritise change management. They demonstrate empathy, communicate clearly, create focused initiatives and invest where needed.
Taken together, these five systems can be harnessed to establish a more empathetic approach to customer engagement. This, in turn, has the potential to drive up customer loyalty and boost brand sentiment, even in today’s world of easily-disseminated online consumer opinion.
One local brand that has experienced great success with this model – specifically the systems of understanding and prediction element – is grocery retailer Woolworths. The organisation has implemented an ultra-efficient voicebot powered by conversational AI to help customers ask detailed questions and obtain detailed, relevant answers.
Woolworths saw a two-point jump in Net Promoter Score (NPS) after implementing the system, which included a smart search feature that recognised over 30,000 products in just three months. But most importantly, it brought back a bit of the personal touch for customers looking for old-fashioned connection from their local grocer in the midst of the pandemic.
With technology driving empathetic customer experiences at scale, businesses can orchestrate more experiences that build loyalty with their customers.