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iStock 1316630702
iStock 1316630702

With Empathy on the Decline, AI is Helping Brands Connect with Customers in an Empathic Way

Chris Pennington, Chief Customer Officer, SugarCRM

Emotional intelligence is a crucial aspect of customer communication, and key to deliver exceptional customer experiences (CX). Today, leveraging automation in the sales, marketing and customer service arena while balancing the need for empathy is critical. While empathy is seen as a uniquely human trait, developments in artificial intelligence (AI) to help brands recognise and respond in an empathetic manner are on the rise and come at a critical time. Studies show that human empathy is on the decline – a deficit costing the average brand $300 million (£223 million) in lost revenue every year.

For brands to truly connect with their customers to effectively market, sell and serve, they need to really understand the customer mindset. This is where empathic AI solutions are coming into the picture to complement and empower sales, marketing, and service professionals on the customer front lines to detect the customer’s emotional state and intent and deliver a better customer experience.

Empathic AI capabilities have great potential to augment human emotional intelligence. As such, AI is becoming fundamental in the customer experience realm to boost customer satisfaction and improve the bottom line. We know that emotional intelligence can vary from one employee to the next; empathic AI can help level up employees that might otherwise miss the emotional cues from customers.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Business

Customers seek easy, effortless experiences that satisfy their existing and future needs; some 86% will pay more for a great customer experience. How customers feel drives their purchasing habits. This is where brand emotional intelligence plays a critical role. McKinsey recently referenced a study that evaluated 170 publicly traded companies on their empathic abilities and found that businesses with empathy within their culture, and toward the customer, will have a net positive benefit on their bottom line. The top ten leaders in empathy outperformed the bottom ten by two times on the stock market.

Gartner agrees that companies that deploy empathy significantly outperform those that don’t, in terms of sales and profit. Designing an emotionally aware organisation is increasingly becoming a topic at the top of the board room agendas. The truth is, people staff organisations and people have feelings. This goes well beyond the employees of a company; it also extends to its customers.

Empathy: The New Frontier for CX Success

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Empathy is critical yet elusive. According to Forrester, consumers are gravitating toward the brands that prioritise people over profits. While nearly all businesses know the importance of showing customer empathy, most struggle to deliver it on a consistent basis.

Using AI to identify how customers feel, so customer-facing professionals can understand and respond in real-time, has many organisations prioritising humans and bots working together to bring out each other’s best capabilities. Today, AI-driven sentiment analysis capabilities are supercharging CRM functions such as sales, marketing, and service interactions with the power of knowing each customer’s and prospect’s emotional state and intent.

Paul Greenberg, President of the 56 Group, LLC and author of The Commonwealth of Self Interest: Business Success Through Customer Engagement, has written extensively about the business empathy imperative – the ability to understand what customers and employees are going through, along with the relevant context, and act accordingly. He states, “One of the highest callings of customer experience professionals and enabling technology platforms is helping customers via an understanding of their struggles and aspirations.”

Empathic AI solutions are becoming increasingly good at using sentiment analysis capabilities to understand the customer better, leveraging a combination of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and AI to surface next-level or next-best action for empathic customer engagement. Greenberg says, “AI-powered sentiment analysis weds customer voice and text to business action, providing every sales and service interaction with the means to account for customers’ emotional tone and attitude – context indispensable to supporting exceptional experiences.” In addition, business professionals can review sentiment data to evaluate overall customer experience and journey effectiveness – providing the means for continuous improvement in meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

Human empathy augmented by empathic AI solutions is helping front-line employees who work directly with customers better understand and respond in context to the range and depth of customer behaviours and emotions to ultimately serve them better.

The Winning Formula

CX is a journey, and businesses need to enable their workforce to deliver something more than a frictionless experience – a human experience that recognises human emotional needs. On many occasions, customers will desire a self-serve interaction that is quick, easy and makes the best use of their time. However, at other times when there is a problem or they want to understand how a product or service will best meet their needs, they will want a human to recognise and deliver the requisite emotional quotient for that customer to be truly understood, felt, and heard.

Today, organisations are focusing on harnessing AI to better understand and deliver on customer needs. Empathic AI solutions can empower customer-facing professionals to produce the right answers and outcomes quickly and confidently, commanding greater customer satisfaction and loyalty by detecting customer intent and emotional state. By identifying and solving the emotions behind the “why,” companies can better serve the needs of their customers. Leveraging AI-powered solutions using sentiment analysis capabilities provides the predictive insights businesses need to recognise customer emotions and intent with accuracy and precision at scale.

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