Can artificial intelligence in customer service deliver empathetic CX?

How customers relate to AI, bots and automated experiences

Duncan Begg – November 14, 2019

Brands talk a lot about the need to be empathetic nowadays.

But empathy can seem a fluffy, imprecise phrase in the business sense.

Here’s the Macmillan Dictionary definition:

“Empathy – the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”

See? The definition doesn’t precisely translate to business. Especially now machines rather than humans are taking care of much of the customer’s experience. AI is powerful, but it can’t “vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another”.

But let’s tweak the definition a little:

“Empathy – the action of understanding, being aware of, and acting on the feelings, experience and needs of your customers and prospects”

Suddenly, the relevance and importance of empathy to brands becomes obvious.

How AI works with customer service

We recently published the results of our Empathy in the Age of AI research – based on interviews with 4,000 consumers and 600 CX leaders

The study underlines the pivotal role of empathy as customers’ interactions with brands become increasingly automated.

First off, an overwhelming 87 per cent of consumers say an empathetic approach to communication and customer experience is important. And 80 per cent call on brands to be more efficient and empathetic in their customer service.

But how can AI help brands become more empathetic?

The consumers we surveyed told us brands should focus on offering:

Usefulness (86%)
Speed (85%)
A seamless experience (84%)
Personalization (80%)
Empowerment (80%)
Timeliness (79%)
Engagement (73%)

Here’s where the importance of AI and automation technology in customer service becomes apparent.

– It can deliver the seamless, fast experience consumers call for by remembering previous interactions and being able to work out what consumers want next.

– It can help you tailor customer experiences – to treat them as individuals and to interact with them based on preferences and needs.

– It can power the multi-channel experience consumers want. And by supplementing human workforces, it can end the frustrating delays customers too often experience when trying to get things done with brands.

It’s no wonder 73 per cent of under 35s told us they believed tech, automation and AI can help businesses grow customer empathy.

The importance of using AI and tech to develop a more empathetic approach to customer service is underlined by further research findings.

A huge 90 per cent of customers said they would be more likely to use – and recommend – an empathetic brand over alternatives. And 86 per cent would spend more money with an empathetic brand.

To find out more about how can brands develop empathetic bonds with large audiences – while reining in CX budgets, get the Empathy in the Age of AI research here.

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