There’s a lot of talk about the values-based consumer today—the preference for brands that do business in ethically positive ways or take a stand on moral issues. Winning over these consumers takes more than launching a Save-the-Whales drive or sending a team to the annual charity 5k. Today’s consumers look for companies that demonstrate exemplary values through customer experience (CX).
Of course, contact center agents are vital to conveying the interpersonal values customers appreciate. Kindness. Understanding. Knowledge of preferences and past interactions. Respect for a customer’s time and money. But in today’s digital marketplace, the values also extend to mobile and desktop experiences: The app that feels human-centered and offers easy access to service agents as well as product information. The website that works to understand customer intent, time constraints, or past purchases and issues.
It’s called digital empathy—and it’s the new CX imperative today.
A New Way of Listening
Digital empathy happens when companies “listen” to customer behavior across channels, learn from it and apply their knowledge to improve a customer’s digital experience. The good news is that powerful experience management (XM) software solutions are available today that are helping organizations do just that—with impressive results.
Consider AARP, for example—the nation’s largest organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. The group’s approach to CX is focused on a deep understanding of customers’ needs and desires that helps formulate new and exciting offerings to empower its members in this mission. AARP has long conducted consumer research to anticipate the needs of America’s aging population and the issues facing its membership. To gather even more insights to complement its formal surveys, AARP added a new approach.
Recently, it began using the new listening technology to gain insight from customer behavior on the website and other digital channels. The driver for AARP? To zero in on the unique needs of a generation that is living longer and facing challenges of aging that are quite different from those in 1958 when AARP was founded.
Studying data on things like online article readership, video playback and game engagement along with structured and unstructured customer feedback helps AARP better understand what’s important to its members. In response, it can develop targeted, customer-empathetic new offerings like brain health assessments and other games to stimulate mental activity and test memory sharpness. A well-publicized initiative to build branded fitness parks in all 50 states had its origin in listening data that revealed the membership’s keen interest in health and wellness.
Empathy That’s Proactive
Sure, digital empathy can be as simple as quickly responding to customer requests or complaints expressed to a chatbot or on social media. But it can be much more. By collecting and unifying data from all channels—web, mobile, location and contact centers—in the form of direct surveys, indirect feedback expressed in conversation and texts, and inferred feedback gathered by behavioral analytics, companies can gain full visibility into its current status with customers—and work proactively to improve it, especially as it applies to digital interactions. Companies can:
- Use demographic and behavioral profiles collected from various “listening posts” along the customer journey to shape customer personas for specific online content and offers.
- Change the website home page or mobile apps dynamically to appeal to loyal “gold star” customers, millennials or other customer segments.
- Take the best next action for a positive outcome from self-service interactions through predictive analytics based on a history of typical customer intents.
This is powerful stuff. Segment by segment, companies find their customer satisfaction scores increase with digital empathy—while their operating costs go down. Some of this is the result of contact center burdens lightening as more customers choose digital. But it’s also due to an improved ability of businesses to use listening to orchestrate better experiences.
Eliminate the Corporate-Speak
If your organization has a chatbot or an intelligent virtual assistant (IVA), you have artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology at your fingertips to make your company easy to do business with. To make your CX approach truly empathetic, you’ll work to find ways to make your chatbot or IVA sound human—eliminating the corporate-speak. The new technology—equipped with text and speech analytics—can guide you in how to speak in the voice of your customers.
The experts call it “cognitive simplification” and when applied to questions it creates a conversational tone, but it’s really just another way of creating empathy. It’s key to ensuring digital transactions deliver positive customer experiences. Compare these two approaches:
- “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how would you rate the ease of finding the product information you were looking for?”
- “Did you find the product information you were looking for? Yes or No.”
The second option is faster. It’s simpler. And it conveys the idea that the customer is speaking to a person who simply wants to know if you’re satisfied, rather than a company gathering data for its next corporate report.
A Best-Practice Holistic CX Framework
With a comprehensive listening and awareness program supported by today’s technology, companies can build a holistic CX framework for unifying the CX effort, analyzing data intelligently and identifying the right actions at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. For example, if a customer complains on social media that the bathroom in a certain retail store isn’t clean, automatic triggers give CX teams detailed insight, customer quotes, impact analyses and other details—delivered right to their inbox, dashboard or smartphone.
Not only can the information be shared with the manager of the store to solve the problem at the tactical level, but it also can detect whether the problem indicates broader operational issues across the enterprise. The technology also uncovers strategic items. It aggregates data and standardized metrics around key issues gleaned from customer interactions across all channels and compares them to your own benchmarks and those of your industry—so companies can determine which CX improvements to tackle first.
What will provide a bigger uptick in customer satisfaction and financial performance—a better mobile app, a more interactive website or cleaner bathrooms? Or, in AARP’s case, website content for staying physically fit and mentally sharp vs. recipes, travel stories or advice on finding the ideal long-term care facility? AARP got its answer. Other organizations are getting their answers, too, using them to drive organizational transformation to experience management that is truly values-based.
A Kinder, Gentler Digital
In a recent Gartner report, a key finding is that CX drives over two-thirds of customer loyalty, outperforming brand and price combined. The report recommends CX leaders create touchpoint innovations that reduce customers’ tendency to consider alternative options by enabling them to affirm the wisdom of their original choice.
Companies can even detect whether an online experience is positive or negative by the way a customer moves his or her mouse across the page. Any “struggle patterns” can guide digital teams on where to make website improvements. At the end of the day, isn’t reducing the number of clicks in a digital experience often the greatest empathy an enterprise can show to a busy customer?
Indeed, providing a few automated tools for customers is no guarantee of customer satisfaction. The key is to leverage new technology that provides clear insight into digital customer interactions—so they can be the best and most innovative they can be. A listening-based CX program combined with technology provides that insight and creates empathy in those teams serving their customers.