We now live in a world where artificial intelligence (AI) understands people’s emotions and sentiments and therefore makes informed and data-driven decisions with the intent of improving customer engagement through personalization.
Personalization begins with empathy. To achieve, hyper-personalization enterprises must first understand customers’ behaviors and intentions then preemptively and proactively intervene in ways that are emotionally suited to specific situations. In doing so, customer-facing employees must both mitigate issues and deliver personalized offers or messaging tailored to customers’ behaviors and interests.
Often, however, personalization efforts lack empathy which is vital in connecting with customers in emotional ways. When enterprises build empathy into their engagements by understanding how and why customers feel the way they do and communicate effectively, it will lend itself to opening pathways toward greater personalization.
Creating human-centered AI interactions that optimize relationships between AI and humans augment human empathy will present a larger opportunity to advance empathy-driven customer engagement. This greater level of personalization derives from capturing and listening to customer feedback. Creating such human-centered AI interactions that optimize relationships between AI and humans and augment human empathy will present a larger opportunity to advance empathy-driven customer engagement.
AI Augments Human Engagement
When I think of empathy in the context of contact centers or customer service, I immediately think of Zappos online clothing retailer that emerged in the early 2000s as one of the first to build a service organization around empathy and listening to customers. When customers would contact the Zappos’ contact center, the agents at the time didn’t rely on scripted conversations and didn’t try to upsell. That’s heavily due to the online retailer not measuring their performance by average call handle time. Instead, agent performance got measured by how much they went above and beyond for the customer, and how quickly they resolved customer issues; a metric similar to current customer effort scores. The entire model revolved around building an emotional connection with customers.
Maybe AI can’t replace human empathy, but it can help augment human engagement to assist agents in becoming more empathetic to deliver emotionally connected engagement like that demonstrated by Zappos’ agents. This model involves taking a human-centric AI approach which places some of the complex understanding on the shoulders of technology while delivering emotional and cognitive input to humans. Human-centric AI bridges the gap between simulated empathy and human empathy by enabling agents to distribute empathetic engagement in the following three ways:
- By receiving proactive and guided coaching
- Having insights on customers’ behaviors and sentiment and understanding how to act in ways that resonate
- Enabling them to focus greater time and effort on high-value interactions
Reimagining Customer Service Amidst the Rise of Empathy
AI-enabled human-centric service design is an opportunity to reimagine the contact center and design for emotional experience. By understanding customer sentiment and behaviors and having the guided assistance to respond proactively, AI can elevate enterprises by transforming customer experiences in genuine ways. In doing so, AI will elevate the contact center to become a value-added functional area rather than a cost center, as it traditionally has been viewed. This design can present an opportunity to rethink customer service and break free from conventional models.
Omdia believes that customer-facing agents will evolve to what Omdia foresees to be the “super agents” of the future. The simple or more mundane queries will be dealt with via self-service or peer support forums and social media, while the more involved either go directly or escalate to a higher level of professional, or what Omdia foresees as the “agent of the future.”
Because of the perennial need to speak to live agents regarding urgent or sensitive inquiries—super agents of the future must rely even more so on human-centric AI. Doing so enables an AI-driven agent to assist with processes and proactively assist with sentiment analysis and next-best actions when personal difficulties or customer journey failures occur.