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How to create a more empathetic contact centre

Olivier Cauderlier
February 15, 2022
3 minutes

We can all recall a time where we’ve had a terrible experience waiting for hours on the phone to resolve an issue with a brand, only to have it eventuate to nothing. The introduction of AI tools like chatbots, and even social media to a certain extent, have helped alleviate the frustrations that traditionally came with resolving small issues over the phone or in person, however, there are (important) occasions that still require a real, old-fashioned conversation.

During the pandemic, a lack of physical touchpoints with brands meant contact centres became the front line of communication. Recent research commissioned by SecureCo found that about a third of all interactions in a contact centre in Australia come from voice channels, usually related to complex and high-value enquiries.

Given the importance placed on voice in the modern customer experience (CX), there isn’t room to get it wrong, especially when 47% of customers say they would ditch a brand after just one or two bad experiences.

Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer report, conducted at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, found 83% of people want “compassionate connection with brands”. For this reason, organisations need to be doing as much as they can to make voice experiences positive, seamless and most importantly, empathetic.

AI and automation alone won’t meet rising customer expectations. The empathy that contact centre staff bring to customer interactions has an immense impact on the CX that brands deliver.

Understanding the importance of empathy

A study conducted by PwC found 59% of consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of CX. When an automated service cannot handle a complicated query, customers will become quickly frustrated and want to speak with a ‘real person.’

Despite AI and automation technologies creating efficiencies, the human touch is still required to manage a customers’ feelings and emotions, which is more likely to be what the customer will end up remembering from the interaction with the brand. According to research discussed by the Harvard Business Review, “on a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.” It’s clear there is a tangible benefit to the bottom line when brands ensure empathy sits at the core of every customer interaction.

Creating a more empathetic technology solution

Unsurprisingly, the contact centre market in Australia is seeing an acceleration in the adoption of AI and automation. According to the same research commissioned by SecureCo, 55% of CX decision-makers in Australia have rated AI and automation as a priority in their CX transformation efforts to drive process efficiency and reduce operational costs.

However, it is important to note that AI and automation cannot be deployed in isolation. Brands need to get the balance between efficiencies and empathy right, or they risk losing customers due to poor service experiences.

Here are some key considerations for brands when building AI and automation into their customer experience architecture:

  • Create a clear plan for what enquiries are going to be automated versus those that should be handled by agents. This can be determined in a number of ways, including identifying the complexity of the enquiry, the customer’s profile and other relevant factors.
  • Listening to calls and understanding caller intent will help gather the insights to inform what you automate and when, and will help in assigning the right amount of resources to the right channels based on demand.
  • Conversational AI solutions like web chat, email and social messaging platforms need to allow for an immediate, seamless handoff to the agent when required. There is nothing worse than being stuck in an AI loop when your power is out or your internet goes down. The handoff from AI to the agent has to be seamless and has to be built right.

Whilst AI and automation are critical factors in improving contact centre CX, poor design can lead to only increasing customer frustrations. Brands cannot risk bounding customers from one agent or communication channel to another because the system hasn’t been designed in a way that adequately balances technology with human interactions.

To find out more, read our latest whitepaper here.

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