Email, The Empathy Channel

Press release – October 31, 2019

By Ray Schultz, MediaPost

Empathy: Identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.—American Heritage College Dictionary

Welcome to the newest marketing buzzword. It’s now so popular that an entire study has been devoted to it: “Empathy in The Age of AI,” published this week by OpenMarket.

Most of us think of empathy as a special sensitivity to others: It’s something you’d like your children to develop.

But not everyone would agree. A few years ago, a political party seemed to demonize those who indulge in it, apparently fearing they would be too generous with public benefits.

The study admits that the term is a bit “fluffy,” at least in the marketing sense.

But consumers apparently value it. Of those polled, 90% would be likely to stick with an empathetic brand and to recommend it to others. And 86% are likely to spend more with a brand they deem empathetic.

Okay. But how do consumers define this quality?

One of the big points of empathy — for 79% — is understanding which channels they prefer. And it turns out that email is the empathy channel.

Chosen by 54% of consumers, email is the most popular channel for interactions with brands. Mobile is second, at 41%.

Still, the study claims that “consumers often don’t feel email is ideal for brand communications — especially when compared with mobile messaging.

For instance, 60% find it less stressful to deal with brands by messaging than by email. And 83% will read mobile messages more quickly than those in email and other channels. (If the study has a skew, it’s in favor of mobile).

Next among interaction preferences in-store/face to face (39%) and social media (24%). Call centers and branded mobile apps are tied for fifth place, with 16% apiece.

OpenMarket surveyed over 4,000 consumers and 600 customer experience executives.

As for general brand empathy, here’s what consumers want:

  • Usefulness — 86%
  • Speed — 85%
  • Seamless/easy to use — 84%
  • Personalize — 80%
  • Empowering — 80%
  • Timeliness — 79%
  • Engaging — 73%

 

But let’s not get too mushy about this. The big challenges are not learning to understand and care for others. Rather, they are:

  • Integration with existing systems and processes — 83%
  • Lack of expertise and resources to design workflows/processes — 81%
  • Ability to communicate with customers in an automated fashion on various channels — 80%
  • Leveraging data and insights to optimize interactions — 79%
  • Integration with existing systems and processes — 77%
  • Silos and lack of data sharing across the business — 76%
  • Building a business case for investment — 76%
  • Compliance/regulatory concerns — 75%
  • Lack of time — 75%
  • Finding suitable platforms or partners — 70%

 

And where do customer experience pros think their customer interactions are failing?

  • Too generic, not personalized — 43%
  • Knowing which channels to use and when — 40%
  • Too complex/customer moved from channel-to-channel or person-to-person — 34%
  • Too much communication — 32%
  • Low level of engagement or low open rates — 29%
  • Too little communications — 29%
  • Compliance (e.g., opt-ins) — 23%
  • None of the above — 4%

 

We suspect that this term, too, will fade in time within the marketing business.

Until then, the study concludes that there’s an incredible opportunity for every business to take advantage of pent-up customer demand for empathetic engagement.”