“Sorry, not sorry” – do chatbots really care about your feelings?

Robin Collyer, CRM & marketing specialist at Pegasystems, discusses the impact chatbots are having on how businesses communicate with customers.

Empathy is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and viewing a situation from their perspective.

While some people are more adept at empathy than others, it is a cognitive skill we are all born with. Its importance is increasingly being recognised in the business world, not only for helping to promote an ethos of emotional intelligence within a company and to offer more empathetic communication towards customers, but also the beneficial knock-on effect it has on both business productivity and development. Being more empathetic can give an organisation an edge against its competitors, and produce a positive boost in brand loyalty which, ultimately, will result in increased profit margins.

Customer churn

As consumers become more accustomed to the digitalisation of services, they also expect a greater level of personalisation. Irrespective of channel, whether they are on twitter, using a mobile app, communicating with frontline sellers, email, or, speaking with call centre staff, they want an organisation to talk to them as if they know them and rapidly solve their issue. Conversing with customers with empathy, either via a customer-facing member of staff, or directly using a chatbot or mobile app, and learning from these engagements (AI if you like), can dramatically reduce customer churn, and grow customer lifetime value.

According to some reports, 80% of firms either already use chatbots, or anticipate they will by 2020. However, there are associated challenges, for example, the requirement to integrate this technology whilst maintaining that genuine ‘human touch’. Today, businesses have never had so many different ways to connect with their customers which has also resulted in the rapid accumulation of useful data which can be used to create a bespoke service. Although these different interactions are being specifically tailored for each customer, they still lack vital personalisation. Customers aren’t content in the knowledge that they are a small fish in a big pond anymore and want a truly unique service where they are spoken to with empathy and consideration.

In order to offer customers empathy at every touchpoint, brands need to identify each single customer – and their context – in real-time and then respond with relevance. Determining the most appropriate next step for the customer involves the incorporation of empathy and the consideration of each action you could take with a customer, but this doesn’t come naturally to every customer service representative. Determining what’s right for the customer and right for the business, at scale, is attainable by utilising technology such as a “Customer Decision Hub” – leveraging transparent AI and decision management to optimise engagement in and across all channels and areas of the business – so the brand can speak with one voice.

Organisations now have the ability to gather new data signals in real-time from all sorts of digital sources using the latest technology. To comprehend the customer’s context and then propose a next best action based on that context, AI, analytics, customer history, and emotional, behavioural, and motivational data need to be fed into the Customer Decision Hub. The Hub can then arbitrate – in real-time – all the decision strategies that define your business (manifesting your brand if you like) to deliver the right message, at the right time, in the right channel. By demonstrating they have a thorough understanding of their customers, and can meet them in, and across, the channel(s) of their choice, in context, businesses achieve far greater success.

Given that chatbots engage directly with customers, it is imperative that they communicate with empathy and speak authentically. To portray them in this way, the chatbot must be calibrated with specific guidelines and decision strategies so that a high level of customer service can be maintained, with the added benefit of helping to safeguard the reputation of the brand.

Chatbots have the capability to support businesses in reaching their goals, as long as the organisation effectively uses technology to upgrade the current customer experience. By providing an empathetic and personalised service, firms can develop a strong bond with their customers, whilst simultaneously building brand reputation and trust. Soon, chatbots will be considered an irreplaceable means for businesses to connect with their customers in an efficient and appropriate way, as well as assisting in the drive towards brand growth and developing the organisation’s values. The chatbot shouldn’t be considered as a complete replacement for the human customer service employees, however, this technology will have a dramatic effect on how businesses communicate with their customers in the future, which will be reflected in overall profitability.

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