Embracing Empathy: The X Factor to Great CX and DX

Deep Thought, the Artificial Intelligence machine in Douglas Adam’s classic, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, was asked the ultimate question about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. “The answer,” intoned the supercomputer, “is always 42”. It’s a classic answer that is part of our cultural lexicon today—a simple answer that addresses every question.

As consumers, however, we are creatures of complexity who require far more than a single, computer-generated, response when buying products. We are driven by our five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell; no machine as yet can replicate the sensory experiences and emotional responses of humans to various stimuli.

In addition, what we often need in our interactions with brands is an essential element that has often wandered between being a corporate buzzword to an element that is critical for those in customer service: Empathy.

Defined as the ability to sense other people’s emotions and coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling, empathy, and particularly cognitive empathy, can often find itself shuffling along in second place—shunted aside by an increasing reliance on just technology to maintain a brand’s connections with its customers.

That increasing reliance can often have the unfortunate result of breaking connections with a brand instead of strengthening it and the reasons aren’t hard to find. Technology alone cannot meet people where they are emotionally or place themselves entirely in someone else's situation in order to better understand their experience. That action requires cognitive empathy.

For brands, it’s never been more important to get, and stay, connected with their customers. The pandemic has inexorably shifted our behaviors and purchase patterns and what we expect from the businesses we deal with. We look for empathy, and we look to companies to understand and recognize the very human challenges posed by the pandemic. Embedded in all of these is the requirement for brands to listen better than ever before.

In truth, the best customer service finds partnership between humans and the right digital technology; CX providers today offer complex and blended digital and human-assisted  solutions that bridge the gap between customer and brand—over a billion times each year. Within that spectrum and in an interconnected world, all of us as customers interact with brands across different touchpoints—often replying on input from multiple sources before making our decisions. Digital Technologies that facilitate this bridge include intelligent automation, omnichannel capabilities, smart IVR, virtual agents, RPA and AI

And it is AI which is key to delivering a faster and better customer experience. By its very nature, Artificial Intelligence gathers vast amounts of customer data from disparate sources—learning and observing actions and reactions, while using analytics, deep learning and self-teaching processes to help sift through that data and, if required, guide the customer through to interactions with a human specialist. This makes the process far more efficient and can significantly reduce time to resolution on queries and complaints.

And when that agent receives the information and is connected with the customer, it’s the science of empathy that plays a critical role in ensuring a smooth experience. Cognitive empathy, while a skill inherent to many, can also be taught. Areas of focus include: the art of being fully present and practicing comprehensive listening, understanding the science of communication and the ability to read deeper into the context of a problem before ultimately proposing a solution.

Startek’s own innovation into how best to equip our specialist to provide a more meaningful customer experience led to the development of the Ideal Dialogue platform to chart a course for customer communication. It is a platform that is now helping countless brands—including award-winning companies—connect emotionally, solve issues, include empathy and improve net promoter scores. Its designed with in-built digital levers of AI to enable a specialist to be far more responsive and varied with their responses, challenging its learners to heighten their awareness of how they communicate and what they need to do to alter their approach to meet the conversational needs of the customer they are supporting.