Empathy in customer service enhanced by technology

by Nathalie Schooling
We could be entering the next step in the evolution of customer experience as a discipline, led by advances in technology. In a twist of irony, harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and big data might just be the breakthrough needed to make customer experiences more human.

A central theme of the recent Design Thinking Conference in Amsterdam was empathy, which is considered the first step in applying design thinking to problem-solving. It is theorised that only by truly understanding a customer’s pain points can you develop the right solutions.

In customer experience, this translates into how an organisation engages with and reacts to its customers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, studies have shown that an inability to empathise was one of the leading causes of customer dissatisfaction. In fact, one study found that 31% of customers said they were angered that their frustration was never acknowledged, while 25% said a lack of personalisation was a major bugbear.

Bottom-line benefits

These are two very simple things to fix when designing a customer experience strategy. And if that manages to reduce the loss of between a quarter and a third of potential customers, the benefits to the brand are self-evident.

I believe the answer to solving these two major frustrations lies in the rapid advances in technology that we’re seeing. Limitless computing power and storage is encouraging companies to gather ever more data on customer interactions and preferences. And advances in data science and AI are enabling more complex data processing.

This takes on greater significance in the design thinking context, wherein empathy is not only about how you engage with a customer, but about having a deeper understanding of what it is that drives their choices and preferences.

Seize the moment

Brands should therefore start exploring ways to track and predict trends based on this wealth of data, while using that to inform individual interactions with customers. The purpose is not to gather reams of information just for the sake of it, but to mine this data for information that can help improve the customer experience.

This approach is invaluable to the staff who have to deal with customers directly. The human touch and ability to demonstrate empathy and understanding are powerful tools that improve your customer experience immensely.

While this may sound overwhelming and achievable only by industry giants, there are numerous online customer relationship management tools that offer some form of customer engagement tracking.

And this is the key: some effort is immeasurably better than no effort. This is something that customers will appreciate and will reward by becoming repeat customers.

This new technology-enabled era is therefore something to embrace. The opportunity to significantly improve customer engagement with the right synergy between tech and human empathy is far too great to be ignored. 

Nathalie Schooling is CEO of customer experience specialists nlighten

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