Building trust and practicing empathy are key to creating loyalty, so how can we add a human element to the digital consumer journey?
We’ve been living in a digital-dominated world for some time, but the Covid-19 pandemic has sped up the digital transformation in nearly every industry. And while more services became available online, the need for the human touch in these services also grew. Edelman’s Trust Barometer report found that 83% of people want a “compassionate connection…that communicates empathy and support with the struggles they face.”
True, in-person engagement allows people to build connections and create empathy through shared experiences and even non-verbal cues. But how do you show your customer that you understand them in a digital world? Here are a few examples of how companies can practice digital empathy by acknowledging user needs and sharing their feelings in a digital setting.
Help customers feel in control
Even in the digital-first world, people still have to use phones to reach out to businesses. Unfortunately, it often implies waiting on hold. According to a study, we spend on average 43 days of our lives waiting on the phone to talk to a service agent. This is definitely not the time one enjoys wasting.
So, what do you do if your customers need consulting from service agents now and then? How do you ensure their queries are answered and wait times remain within reasonable limits?
For example, you’re an insurance provider and customers call your contact center to file insurance claims. People who’ve done it before know how stressful that can be — for one thing, if someone files an insurance claim, it means they experienced damage or loss of some sort. Now they have to get through to an agent because this process requires assistance, which causes even more stress.
At the same time, there is a certain algorithm behind insurance claims submission: certain steps need to be taken and certain documents filed. Also, there are typical questions that can be categorized, which allows for automation. Indeed, a conversational, AI-powered bot can effectively guide customers through the entire claims process till it is settled. And if the bot struggles to help, it can always transfer the query to a human agent. This way, you spare your customers time and help them feel more in control.
Always offer a choice
While conversational AI automation works perfectly for some, others are reluctant to adopt it for various reasons. Sometimes the nature of business does not allow conversational agents, like private banks. Then there are companies that position themselves as family-owned businesses, so customers expect they can pick up the phone and always get through to someone — it’s part of their brand, and clients value this sort of personalized service. At the same time, it’s essential to acknowledge that some people simply dislike talking to bots.
However, no matter how hard you try to deliver a truly personalized experience, there will never be enough employees to do that. There will always be times when customers can’t get through to your contact center. So, even if you’re opposed to bots, you still could bring conversational AI to deliver efficiencies and improve user experience (UX). Thus, instead of solving an issue, the bot can simply notify callers that the agent is busy and arrange a callback. When integrated with contact center systems, the bot finds relevant times, lets customers select the time that is appropriate to them, and then just gets some basic context for the agent. This way, a much better-prepared agent calls back at a convenient time and helps customers resolve their issues, and also provides your customers with options and improves the overall experience.
Create a customer-first web experience
There are many ways conversation design can add an element of humanness to the web experience. As a rule, modern digital customers spend no longer than 30 seconds on a website looking for the necessary information and leave if they fail to find it.
But what if you turn the process of information discovery into a friendly conversation? There are great examples of fully conversational websites where you can ask or type any question about the company and have it answered, or you can get a web navigation assistant that will handle the most confusing or frequently asked questions. When you help customers find what they need faster online, you get closer to creating digital bonds with them.
Become truly omnichannel
However, brand touchpoints are not limited to websites and contact centers. Researchers say that 73% of customers use multiple channels in their buying journey. That means to stay competitive, businesses should unify their channels and try to better understand customer behavior.
For many brands, switching between channels is still like the broken telephone game. For example, a person applies for a mortgage at a bank’s office. While their application is being processed, they get bombarded with phone calls from this very bank with a car loan offer. Often, even if the person asks the agent about the service they are really interested in, a couple of days later they get a call with a car loan offer yet again. As a result, no one gets what they want. So, the better you know your customers’ needs, the better engagement you can create.
Ignite empathy at a scale
But what if an organization is the one that seeks empathy from its audience? For example, if you’re a charity or nonprofit, how do you get potential donors to be empathic with people in need? People struggle to feel empathy toward abstract concepts and stigmatized groups or avoid it altogether, especially on digital premises.
It’s much easier to empathize with someone’s personal experience, so you can take a story of one person and share it with lots of people on YouTube or television — it’s a known strategy. But these narratives are restricted in a certain way because you cannot learn about them more than they’re already telling you.
If you could have a conversation with them, you’d ask questions to have more information and more nuanced responses. In order for a charity to work, you need to have millions of people donating — it’s a numbers game, and you cannot have this one person speaking to millions of people. And here come the bots: They are a perfect tool to create empathy and tell these interactive stories. Bots allow you to scale conversations and tell interactive stories to millions of people concurrently.
So, adding empathy to customer interaction doesn’t require new hires or complex automation. It’s all about knowing customers, meeting them at the touchpoints of their choice, and showing those little signs of care.