Make AI Your Catalyst for Delivering Empathetic Customer Experiences

When I first heard someone say that artificial intelligence (AI) technologies could empathize with customers, I thought it had to be hype. By definition, true empathy requires the ability to feel emotion. I’m sure we all remember the initial hype surrounding AI, such as the prediction that AI-driven robots will take over the world and wrestle control from humans. But once the hype subsided, AI has proven useful in nearly every type of business.

Customers have many interactions with your business — only some of them are with a human employee. And each interaction adds to the customer experience, either positively or negatively. Sometimes your customer just wants help quickly and effectively. Sometimes, they need more – they need empathy. In the contact center, for example, customers often want and need a quick resolution to their issues. In those instances, AI bots offer the sought after effectiveness and efficiency. While AI may not be able to express empathy itself (yet), the right AI solution actually can facilitate your contact center’s delivery of empathetic experiences.

Empathetic Experiences and What They Mean for Customers
When engaging with your company, a customer might wonder if anyone is really listening or if anyone really cares. They hate repeating themselves and they want assurance that you know who they are, can anticipate their needs, and can proactively resolve their issues in precisely the way they want.

While AI itself can’t demonstrate empathy, it can equip human agents with the insights and context necessary to empathize during a customer interaction. Here are three ways:

  1. Identifying with context: By connecting each customer interaction with context, you learn more about the customer
  2. Homing in with personalization: You can tailor each customer and employee engagement by understanding and addressing the customer’s specific needs to establish trust.
  3. Wowing with proactive engagement: Leap ahead of the competition by using AI and machine learning to better recognize and respond to intent in real time — and to optimize interactions and resources.

Best Practices for Leveraging AI
Connecting with your customers on a more personal level has never been more important. That personal connection is what sets you apart from your competition, what builds customer loyalty and ultimately, what drives better business outcomes. Here are three strategies for using AI in the contact center to take your customer experience to the next level.

  1. Understand Context. It’s important to connect customer engagements with context; your customers want to be heard. But, too often, they just feel frustrated when what they tell you on one channel or interaction isn’t shared on others. The problem is that their data isn’t moving with them – across channels and all engagements — over time. This creates fractured experiences. And chatbots that aren’t integrated across channels can lead to these frustrations, often only understanding half of what the customer communicates.

According to Gartner, “By 2022, 50% of large organizations will have still failed to unify engagement channels, resulting in the continuation of a disjointed and siloed customer experience that lacks context.”

To fix this, the customer journey needs to be connected across marketing, sales and service. Give customers a consistent experience across voice and digital channels – in real time. To ensure a customer never has to repeat anything, you should be able to make a seamless hand-off from customer-bot to customer-employee, with historical and real-time context included.

  1. Personalize engagement. Often, your customers just want the right information fast and accurately. Sometimes, they need empathy from a human connection. If they can’t get an answer from a bot in real time, they expect to reach the best agent to help them based on their specific need. For an interaction to feel personal and empathetic, it’s critical to tailor customer and employee experiences based on the customer’s intent and the skills of the employee.

The intelligence in artificial intelligence often comes down to data. When data and relevant systems aren’t integrated, best-of-breed AI technology falls flat. Employees aren’t empowered with the context of past engagements or next-best-action recommendations. And that means first-contact resolution rates drop, average handle times increase, and employee satisfaction and performance suffer — along with the customer experience.

Few organizations have the ability to personalize real-time engagements. Only 27.7% of businesses can access context-based advice based on recent contact.

A contact center solution must understand and address your customers’ needs first and foremost. Bots don’t always live up to expectations when they aren’t powered by AI with strong natural language understanding (NLU) capabilities. Leveraging third-party and internal AIs or bots can help businesses provide customers with the most appropriate responses. And when the issue is beyond a bot’s abilities, the solution can find the right agent to solve the customer’s problem, based on the customer’s intent.

  1. Engage Proactively. Your customer might not know why they should choose your brand over your competitor’s. But they’ll easily find reasons to leave your business for another. To really wow your customers, you need to go the extra mile. Optimize outcomes with predictive analytics and machine learning.

Understand their intent and match them with the best resource quickly and efficiently. Proactively engage them — anticipating their needs at just the right moment to demonstrate empathy, building brand loyalty and boost satisfaction rates.

Connecting Moments and Improving Customer Experience
Optimizing the customer experience requires an examination of each moment — the connection of moments and the entire, continual experience. The most effective proactive engagement requires the use of predictive analytics and AI capabilities that go beyond a typical customer experience and engagement solution.

In fact, only 13.5% of businesses have access to fully automated systems that enable proactive engagement. And a small fraction (3.5%) of these companies have implemented predictive systems to help anticipate future needs.

Look for a vendor that can leverage the data and learnings from each interaction to optimize the overall customer experience.

While we might not be able to rely on AI to demonstrate empathy to your customers, AI can act as a catalyst to deliver the empathetic experience your customers want — and deserve. To help your employees better understand your customers and their intents, empower them with the AI tools that can personalize and proactively engage customers at just the right moments. That’s the foundation of an empathetic customer experience.

To learn more, read the report “Unlocking the transformative power of AI for contact centers with Google Cloud and Genesys.” And register for the webinar today.