Closing the 5 Empathy Gaps in Customer Experience


Companies have two main assets: customers and employees. Without employees, there’s no one to create products and services. Without customers, there’s no one to buy the products and services. But neither are on the profit and loss statements for most companies.

Instead, companies measure employee attrition or customer acquisition; they rarely measure the value of their employees or customers. And what determines whether employees or customers are loyal is their experience.

Research shows that, while 80% of most companies believe they provide great customer and employee experiences, only 20% of their customers and employees agree. Why is there a gap? Often companies aren’t properly measuring the experiences they provide. When companies put themselves in the shoes of their customers and employees, they realize there’s work to be done.

When customer experience (CX) leaders design experiences with empathy – listening, understanding intent and predicting outcomes, delivering next-best action from a customer/employee point of view — and then continuously learning from them – not only do the experiences improve but the companies also see better business results. And those are the companies that win in the long term.

The Genesys research report, “The business case for empathy,” reveals that, as organizations shift their culture and operations toward empathy — creating the experiences customers and employees want — there are still large gaps to close.

The study, which surveyed more than 450 business leaders globally, found that most organizations are still in the early stages of their journeys toward empathy-centricity. Most are at the “Interacting” and “Engaging” stages of being empathy-centric, where customer listening is selective; customer understanding is limited by manual processes; and actions are mostly siloed and reactionary.

None have reached the pinnacle of “Empathizing,” where they systematically and holistically listen to customers; use automation to clarify customer understanding; take action that’s proactive, predictive and prescriptive; and use artificial intelligence (AI) to learn and continually improve.

These companies see each step in the interaction as a separate and discrete step versus orchestrating an experience from beginning to end.

The research uncovered five empathy gaps holding companies back in their journey from “Interacting” to “Engaging” to “Empathizing” to deliver an end-to-end orchestrated customer experience. That means using AI for far more than automating repetitive tasks.


1. The customer identity gap: Your customers are a mystery when they shouldn’t be. Nearly half of respondents noted that their contact center agents and bots ask for customer identification information during real-time voice and digital interactions. Often this puts the onus on customers to provide information for authentication that could be gathered automatically. Instead, customers must repeat steps, which leads to increased interaction times and frustration.

Take action: Organizations are solving this problem by listening to customer interactions and event data across all touchpoints. Once collected, the data is combined with AI to stitch together and link identifiers like cookies and social media handles as well as data within their own systems or third-party partners.

CX leaders use that information to build more holistic, real-time customer profiles. Then they ensure rich data is readily available to customer-facing staff and bots for the next steps in the interaction.

2. The personalization gap: Many companies lack the depth of understanding necessary to truly personalize CX. For instance, just one-third of banking executives surveyed for the Genesys report said their agents have access to customers’ recent interaction activity, as well as intent learned from web bots, voice IVR bots and/or digital self-service applications that would enable them to deliver highly contextualized, personalized experiences.

Take action: Companies can use current activities to predict customer intent and personalize interactions. For example, they could know that a customer has a pending order, has been searching for pricing on the website or has responded to certain voice prompts on the IVR. Another approach is to use AI to gain insights and predict their propensity to buy. This allows agents and bots to guide customers to the next-best action.

3. The intelligence gap: The majority of organizations have yet to harness the full potential of AI technologies to listen, understand, predict and learn across the entire customer journey. Only one-third of companies surveyed use AI to gain more advanced insights like customer sentiment. Most organizations are missing opportunities to not only act and respond in the moment, but also to access deeper insight for long-term strategic planning around CX.

Take action: Use AI across channels, touchpoints and interactions to augment customer event data to better understand intent, preferences and sentiment. Then use those insights in real-time to act and improve self-service and agent-assisted interactions. This also empowers you to improve the overall experience.

Through computational analysis, organizations can evaluate the end-to-end experience from the customers’ points of view — driving the right changes to create customer-centric, long-term, strategic planning. And they can evolve the customer and employee experiences.

4. The measurement gap: Many CX measures are lagging indicators. About 40% of executives we spoke with say they review the results of surveys and focus groups only “from time to time.” Companies must track, measure and course-correct in the moment. And 73% of executives polled say they find it difficult to quantify the business value of improving specific elements of CX.

Take action: Use AI to evaluate Voice of the Customer and employee feedback, event and intent and interaction data to prioritize and resolve issues in real time. You should also create a continuous feedback loop and share insights across the organization, rather than only reviewing the Voice of the Customer periodically. When it comes to quantifying the business value of CX, start small. For example, choose one journey to improve and then measure the change to customer-centric effectiveness. Determine how those changes lead to better business outcomes.

5. The change management gap: Initiatives that would improve CX often stall or don’t reach their full potential because of a lack of adoption, cross-functional collaboration or planning. In addition, company culture and management strategies could unintentionally inhibit changes from happening.

Take action: Adopt a top-down and a bottom-up strategy that aligns company goals with your employees’ career and growth goals — no matter their role. Everything employees do should focus on your customers and their experiences. Rethink measurement, reward and recognition programs to encourage and support the adoption and use of new tools and processes.

Consider cultural, organizational and management changes that encourage employees to overcome the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality and adopt new — and better — ways of operating.

What empathy gaps are in your organization? Take The empathy assessment™ online to find out.