By Subramanya C, Chief Technology Officer, Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS)
Today’s businesses know that customers are in control. So it helps to take a close look at those critical moments when customers experience issues with either brand or product. At these times, customer expectations are two-fold. First, they want you to understand their problem and solve it, and they also have a basic need for a brand to empathise with their situation. This means empathy all along their journey—from Engage, Buy, and Bill to Care, Warrant, and Retain. A recent McKinsey survey, for example, shows that customer satisfaction with health insurance is 73 percent more likely when journeys work well—beyond touchpoint success.
Empathy’s role in CX is a broad and nuanced topic, and a lot can be said about it. However, in this blog, let’s focus on three ways empathy continues to be important in CX— how it can work to solve, enhance, and measure:
- Solve: Empathy contributes greatly to solving issues for customers requires process and product/ service knowledge with expertise in technology and customer handling. You can build the best of knowledge-based tools using all the latest technology, but if your customer care agent cannot understand a customer’s problem—from their unique perspective, all the technology is of no use. For agents to truly understand customer experience, they should be trained from the customer perspective. Empathy education means training in listening and troubleshooting at the Buy or Care stages of the customer journey to move through different customer issues and problem-solving scenarios. Remember that, often, what is unsaid by the customer is equally important to spoken words. Customers need to be heard and understood as the first step of solving an issue. In terms of these listening and troubleshooting skills, remember the adage “nothing beats experience.” Agents who have had the practical and first-hand training experience of a situation are more understanding about the customer’s predicament and provide the right answer, fast.
- Enhance: Customer care agents need to be empowered with empathy experience to act with understanding and responsiveness, instead of just following a script. Agents should be trained to think creatively of ways to enhance customer experience at critical moments of customer-agent communication. With empathy experience, agents develop judgement and learn to effectively and independently handle off-script moments with tact and emotional intelligence. Over time, training with different scenarios will sharpen agents’ ability to use good judgement. Particularly in complex customer queues that require strong agent skills in terms of relationship building, support with empathy helps enhance the overall experience for the customer. In these cases, beware of the shuffling-off syndrome, when agents transfer a customer to other departments without any explanations or follow-ups. An empathetic agent will go the extra mile to satisfy the customer with clear and supportive communication. And this builds to regaining of trust to retain that customer.
- Measure: Empathy in CX not only adds to better issue resolution and enhances the overall CX, it also aids in ensuring you build toward significantly higher achievement of client metrics. After all, the best scenario is where all metrics are being achieved with plenty of empathy. In the long run, applying empathy in customer support improves issue resolution and enhances the customer experience helping achieve impressive scores on crucial metrics like NPS, CSAT, and FCR.
In an age where bots are being used extensively, the importance of empathy is rising. As efficient as bots are, they cannot provide empathy. They can be used to support and resolve repetitive tasks that don't require empathy to free up valuable agent time for complex customer issues that need empathy the most. According to a recent report by Horses for Sources, automation is making way for strong growth of highly and medium skilled personnel—with highly skilled positions in the service provider industry increasing by 56%, and medium-skilled by 8%. However, low-skilled, routine jobs drop 30% as many of these roles get phased out over the next 5 years:
This indicates that, at this moment in time—and almost counterintuitively, empathy is more important than ever. A bot-brain balance leaning on empathy and relationship building brings tremendous opportunity to win and retain customers with optimized CX.