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How to Build Trust Through Empathy – The Empathy Series (Part 2)

Steve Kraus

This is part two of a three-part series. To catch up, read part one, here: Why Your Brand Needs Empathy.

According to researchers from the University of Cambridge, empathetic people are made, not born. And in today’s corporate landscape empathy is more important than ever before in successful businesses, correlating to growth, productivity, and earnings per employee. This is good news for the countless organizations looking to become more empathetic.

In Part 2 of our empathy blog series, we’re sharing key tips and best practices for delivering top-notch customer service, how to scale and measure empathy across an organization, and finally, how technology can help.

The Elements of Superior Customer Service

For customers, emotions are a big deal. CX transformist Bruce Temkin even considers emotion to be the most important element of the customer experience because happy customers are loyal customers. If you’ve ever interacted with a customer service agent you’ll likely agree that the experience of having an agent who listens and responds to you thoughtfully is much more enjoyable than one where you feel you’re not heard, and responses lack empathy and awareness.

The agent-customer relationship, even in the space of a few minutes on the phone, needs to be a partnership. While it’s impossible to control the customer’s actions, a fully engaged agent who listens and expresses a genuine interest in resolving the situation will foster this partnership, helping to ensure more engaging and successful conversations.

State Farm recently poked fun at autonomous customer service in their commercial depicting a clunky and unadvanced “RoboAgent” – highlighting the limitations of technology to understand and relate to humans on an emotional level. While a “RoboAgent” might reduce upfront costs of a fully human workforce, the limitations of its capabilities will lead to more follow-up responses, more frustrated customers, and ultimately, less brand loyalty. For companies to be successful, the customers’ emotional needs have to be met. They have to trust they will receive the best resolution for their specific circumstances.

To cultivate empathy in brands, some companies like IBM and Microsoft are dedicating more time with their customers, and others are going the extra mile by encouraging their employees to become the customer for a day or two.

For example, Consumers Energy, a Michigan-based utility company, was struggling with low-income customers not paying their bills. To understand where their customers were coming from, the company conducted an empathy experience with their employees using goldfish. Ultimately, the purpose of the session was to enlighten employees with a richer understanding of the customers’ perspective and motivate employees to drive creative ideas and breakthroughs in customer service. These types of exercises are crucial for companies looking to implement empathy at scale, as they not only help solidify connections with customers, but also support customer connections with the company.

Similarly, companies like Walmart and Tyson are using simulations to train retail employees on interacting with customers using empathy and emotional intelligence. By implementing and leveraging augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) technology for widespread corporate education on emotional intelligence, large corporations ensure customer interactions and emotional connections are a priority.

Tech Helps Get You There

At this year’s Dreamforce, humanity and humanization were key themes throughout the conference. John Legere, CEO at T-Mobile, explained how T-Mobile is upending standard business practices with a wonderfully disruptive mandate: listening to the customers and giving them exactly what they want. In fact T-Mobile has an excellent set of videos starring their CEO highlighting how hard it has been to actually connect with an agent and how frustrating that is for a customer.

Technology that delivers real-time behavioral support enables the empathy and rapport customer service and sales have long been missing. Live guidance allows agents to see how customers react emotionally throughout a call, giving them the knowledge they need to adjust their own behavior accordingly. For example if a customer is nervous or tense, the software lets the agent know with a simple, clear nudge. Or if agents i are speaking too quickly, talking over the customer, or introducing awkward pauses into conversation, the software helps agents adjust the conversation for better results.

Empathy can be measured and coached, but it is reliant on one’s ability to improve his or her emotional intelligence. Supervisors can stay informed on any and all calls agents make where they could use the extra support. Measuring the customer’s emotional experience in 100 percent of calls provides a new metric companies can use, not only to improve their call centers but also to gauge feelings about the company. Enhanced customer-experience analytics can also enable companies to better align future product needs with potential customers.

Scalable Empathy Drives Growth Across Organizations and Industry

To be an industry leader, companies must build strong, lasting relationships with customers. The most successful enterprises have spent years establishing trust and have reaped the reward of market leading growth. As their businesses scale to include thousands of consumer-facing employees, it becomes harder to ensure that each employee is empowered to live the brand promise.

Through advancements in technology, AI can help increase empathy through augmenting the emotional intelligence of front-line employees. It can also provide an objective measure of the customers’ emotional experience during a phone call. By leveraging this technology to deliver in-the-moment coaching to representatives and empowering leaders to gauge their brand impact, companies can successfully scale empathy across their organization to ensure a bright and successful future.

Empathy doesn’t stop at the customer. In Part 3 of this series, we’ll discuss how organizations can implement empathy to improve employee satisfaction and engagement.

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