AI and Empathy in Customer Experience image by aleutie

AI and Empathy in Customer Experience

“I’m sorry, that is not a valid entry,” is not the most empathetic response to a customer inquiry. Yes, AI and automated menus can streamline the customer service process, but don’t forget the human touch of empathy.

AI Everywhere

It is amazing how far artificial intelligence has come and how much we already rely on it. We are steeped in forms of AI like online recommendations based on interests (seriously, an ad for a mobile phone service just appeared on my screen. I was searching for a new provider earlier). Then there is smart tech: “Alexa, play Fall Out Boy”, and the simple joy of spam filtering.

It may be a bit weird that all of our tech is tracking us, but the truth is we have become trained to it. Be honest, how would you feel if your spam filter just stopped working? (“Hey robot, I need a beer… Please?”)

Still, we like to hear the voice of another human being who understands our issue when we have a problem. We really want to be heard.

That goes for your customers too.

AI as a Tool not a Human Replacement

Offering customers self service for their problems is brilliant. Many customers love this and want this. For nuanced issues, however, nothing replaces the human touch. This Forbes article makes an important distinction between handling ‘high-urgency’ versus ‘high-emotion’ issues:

“New AI tools are rapidly emerging in the support space that can address high-urgency situations quickly, but when it comes to high-emotion scenarios, no AI can replicate human empathy, so there’s still a distinct advantage to having a real person help a customer.”

This is one reason the overall job loss some are afraid of is not in the immediate future:

“It is widely believed that AI will kill off a lot of jobs, making people obsolete in the business world. Although AI will obviate the need for most traditional jobs, the truth is that AI technology will make the role of humans more important – not less.”

As humans, when minutiae is taken off our plates we have an opportunity to focus on evolving our knowledge and soft skills too. This applies to customer service agents also.

Giving agents a chance to use the detailed information they have amassed by assisting customers and build on it offers agents greater job satisfaction. It also offers your business greater customer retention and customers a better experience.

AI Can’t Digitize Empathy

For all of its power AI can’t exactly put itself into a person’s shoes, metaphorically speaking.It cannot relate. That is where the power of human empathy exceeds AI.

When your customer is nearly in tears over their Mother’s birthday gift not arriving an AI tool is not able to ease the emotion of the situation.  A human agent has the ability to engage the customer from a place of having people they care about too. When a real live person says “I understand. I would feel the same,” from that vantage it rings true.

“Customers want to know and feel that agents are people just like them – and what greater form of empathy is there than the golden rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated.”

AI can’t be empathetic, but it can help determine when the customer service rep has been. It can also be used to help train agents to be empathetic.

Keep an eye on Navedas, for more on this subject in upcoming posts.

Have you had a less than empathetic customer service experience? Or have you had an excellent one? Share your experience with us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.