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Today, the entire way we live and work has changed, yet customer expectations are still as high as ever. Your customers can become frustrated by waiting on hold or chatting with multiple agents. They’re looking for the right answers fast, but still expect their issues to be resolved with care and empathy. Digital technology can make that possible. While it may seem like a paradox, automation can actually make customer support more human.

Why is this the case? Automation is reshaping the relationship that companies have with both their customers and agents by streamlining the support process, increasing satisfaction for both parties. So, while 94 percent of customers say they dread contacting customer service, this can change when your agents are able to prioritize empathy. Here’s how.

The empathy issue

Empathy is an important skill in service-based roles. However, the pressure to constantly be empathetic is a form of emotional labor. Emotional labor is the act of displaying a certain emotion to meet the requirements of a role. In customer service, this happens every day as agents manage customer questions and problems.

That can take a toll on your agents and lead them to experience compassion fatigue. This is an indifference to charitable appeals on behalf of those who are suffering, experienced as a result of the frequency or number of such appeals. Simply put, this fatigue, similar to burnout, has a negative impact on your agents and customers. 

When agents have too much on their plate, it can be harder to show empathy. This fatigue happens to most customer service professionals at some point. If your business experiences a sudden spike in inquiries, it’s even more likely. 

However, this phenomenon is not something that’s permanent. It’s also not an indicator that an employee is bad at their job. Emotional labor can take a huge toll on your agents but there are things you can do to make it easier for them to genuinely display the right emotions with customers. Once you understand the different types of empathy and how your agents can apply the concepts to all customers with ease, you can make customer support more human. 

Types of empathy in customer service

Cognitive empathy 

Cognitive empathy, also known as empathic accuracy, involves “having more complete and accurate knowledge about the contents of another person’s mind, including how the person feels.” This takes a lot of skill. It requires agents to understand the emotional state of customers and the way it contributes to their behavior.

This concept is important in customer service because it plays a big role in the way that agents respond to customers and offer resolution. However, it isn’t always easy for agents to grasp the emotional state of each individual customer, especially if they have limited information about the customer or their unique issue.

Emotional empathy

Emotional empathy is the concept that people are most familiar with. This is where we feel the same emotion as the other person. We then understand and sometimes feel the distress that others feel when they express their concerns. 

This type of empathy establishes a true connection between customers and agents. When agents practice emotional empathy, they allow customers to feel heard. They provide great customer service, even in challenging situations. Some problems may be simple to solve, some issues might have a longer time to resolve. Either way, agents can use emotional empathy to increase customer satisfaction. 

Compassionate empathy 

Compassionate empathy is a critical skill for customer service agents. It’s similar to other forms of empathy in that it also allows agents to understand the problem a customer is facing and feel their concern. But with compassionate empathy, agents feel compelled to take action to help customers resolve their problems. It’s about feeling the negative emotions of others and then taking action to alleviate the pain.

These concepts are at the core of great customer service. However, many companies don’t have enough agents or enough bandwidth to effectively apply them with every customer. This is where automation can help. 

How AI and automation create empathy at scale

Using AI and automation, you can better empower customer service reps to connect with customers and provide empathy at scale. Here are a few ways to make this possible in your organization.

QuickSearch Bots

An QuickSearch Bot is a chatbot that can work in tandem with a customer service team to provide quick answers to customer questions. QuickSearch Bot can instantly reply to queries with useful articles from your FAQ, enabling many customers to find answers without needing to speak to an agent. This simple tool can dramatically reduce issue backlogs that can quickly create stress for agents.

Intelligent issue classification and routing

Making sure that issues reach the right bot or agent the first time is crucial to enabling empathy at scale. Perhaps nothing frustrates a customer more than being transferred multiple times, having to repeat their issue with each new agent.

Intelligent issue classification and routing leverages AI to correctly transfer a customer’s issue to the right bot or agent the first time based on their question. Not only does this create a seamless experience for your customers, it also reduces repetitive tasks for agents as they no longer have to route issues manually. 

Chatbots

Besides QuickSearch Bots, other chatbots can be leveraged to automate common workflows and collect customer data for agents. For example, a chat bot can walk a customer through a returns process and provide a return label all without the involvement of an agent. A chatbot can also collect all the information an agent needs from various sources, such as order information from a database. Chatbots save agents time by automating the most common workflows and by providing information to agents upfront so they can provide quicker support.

Conclusion

Using AI and automation to make customer support more human is a win-win. Your customers get the answers they need more quickly and agents can spend more time connecting with the customers that need it most. Offering convenience to customers through technology is another way to show that you empathize with them and respect their time.

Published April 8, 2020
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