Companies, despite the explosion of technological power, have failed to keep up with rising customer standards. Customer service technology must establish a dialogue with the customer and develop deeper relationships, just as the best human customer service representatives do. And then it should go beyond, using the developing technology of promote and develop what a human agent can physically do. This is what we call “digital empathy.” The keys are to offer customers more control, keep technology more intuitive than mindless, provide visibility into customer friction points, and blur digital divides. and physical domains.
Customer expectations are outpacing technological innovation. We can all think of instances where companies, despite the explosion of technological power, have failed to keep up with rising customer standards. In recent years, many of us have probably asked ourselves rhetorical questions such as: “Why do I have a thousand movies to watch, but can’t organize my favorites just so” ‘? Why is it so difficult to analyze my budget, when my credit card has almost all the information needed to help me finish the job? Why don’t I have a unified travel portal that stores all my preferences, my wish list and my rewards memberships as neatly as I organize the songs in my music library?
At the same time, it has become more difficult to find a satisfactory way to raise such questions with companies – or even to troubleshoot issues that arise with current offerings. The risks are many that in a slow economy, companies will focus more on digital protocols that cut the cost of interaction but end up reducing customer connections as a result.
Customer experience leaders do things differently. They know that the digital experience doesn’t have to be trivial. It must recognize the concerns of customers, do everything possible to correct things, and inform them of the actions taken on their behalf.
It is also necessary to do all of these things while building a dialogue with the customer and developing deeper relationships, as the best human customer service representatives do. And then it should go beyond, using the developing technology of promote and develop what a human agent can physically do.
This is what we call “digital empathy.”
Loyalty programs have evolved from Pavlovian reward schemes to better ways to operate tiered service. Conscious digital tools are starting down the same path. They excel in the sales department to improve customer service and reduce friction in operations. For example:
- Virtual assistants eliminate call waiting times and answer questions quickly
- Augmented Reality quickly toggles paint colors in photos in your room
- Digital keys, pushed by your handheld device, avoid the need to check in at hotels
Certainly, while ChatGPT is taking the world by storm, the minds of customer experience experts are spinning, wondering what magical use cases the next AI-based tools will create.
Digital empathy can greatly improve the customer experience by emphasizing four key principles:
Offer customers more control
People (especially the younger generation) are used to a world where they dictate, rather than choose, their experiences. The data they need is at their fingertips, they can easily help themselves, and the customer experience is a two-way conversation. Digital empathy recognizes that the customer experience is not something that is done to you, or even for you. This is something you can actively calibrate.
Contactless service often fails because it is rigid, impersonal, and unnecessarily complicated. Then there’s Rose, the digital concierge at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, who is rapidly reaching the point where customers can’t tell where the chatbot ends and human intervention begins. From room amenities to room service, dining reservations to billing questions, Rose is at the guest’s beck and call with quick access to complete, relevant information.
Keep it so intuitive, it’s a no-brainer
Early adoption of digital technologies is inevitable for the most technical among us. However, we are now at the stage where any interaction should be natural and smooth. The world has effectively been conditioned to believe that anyone can be a technologist and that things should work. Permission for owner’s manuals is absent.
Nest, the smart digital thermostat turned smart-home platform, can certainly accommodate manual configuration. But after the acquisition, Alphabet no doubt discovered that most homeowners simply let the device run. The nest can determine the right temperature in the right zone at the right time, with little adjustment.
Provide visibility to customer agitation points
It has been shown time and time again that a little transparency can improve peace of mind. Think progress bars — the ones that show where you are in a movie or how many of your downloads are complete.
UPS applies this psychology to the status of our packages, proactively sending notifications that allow us to navigate each stage of delivery from warehouse to door. Customers can even see the real-time location of the delivery truck and schedule a new drop-off time. Uber, to the same effect, did the same for our rides.
Organizing with a holistic philosophy
In the same way that digital and real life coexist for customers, companies must blur the lines between the digital and physical domains of their customer service strategy.
That’s how JetBlue approaches its social media accounts — not as a digital silo, but as a key channel linked to the rest of the operation. For example, the airline actively monitors its Twitter feeds and mines them for operational cues that are immediately transmitted to ground staff.
Today’s digital tools are a disruptive force unlike anything we’ve seen in a generation. In many industries, they will tip the market order. These new capabilities create a compelling opportunity, to be sure, but only if digital empathy remains front and center.
The next generation of winning business models will embrace the principles of digital empathy to proactively develop customer relationships. The concept is powerful precisely because it uses technology to bring humanity, of all things, back to the human experience.