Empathy is the Core of Quality Customer Experience: Understanding Empathetic CX and why automation can never replace the Human Connection

Empathy is a term often used in relation to Customer Experience, but in order to understand its importance, it is vital to spell out what it is.  A straightforward definition of empathy (according to Merriam-Webster) is:  “Empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” What does this mean in relation to CX? Quite simply, it is a person-to-person understanding that transforms a customer interaction. The “agent-customer” dynamic melts away and instead there is a genuine conversation that is based on personalization, problem-solving and compassionate communication. 

Our company, Horatio, values this level of personalization and empathy at the highest level. It is for this reason that while we use technologies to help us offer the fastest response times and efficient solutions, we also believe that there will never be a substitute for the human connection. This is backed by concrete evidence as according to recent data from PwC: over 75% of consumers across 12 countries claim that they would want to talk to a human, even as technology progresses. Our hybrid approach – AI combined with empathetic agents who go above and beyond to connect with customers  – is the bedrock and secret ingredient to successful customer experiences. 

While empathy really will boil down to a company’s mission, values, and the talent you have, there are ways to encourage having empathetic customer conversations  

  1. Personalization is the secret ingredient: From the start of the conversation, agents should be asking questions (in an empathetic tone) to get to know the customer. These questions should not follow a script, but rather adhere to the specific conversation. Encourage your team to leverage information from each specific interaction to further personalize communications. This will result in customers feeling seen and understood, and more open in sharing their concerns with the situation at hand. 
  2. Identify the core problem & focus on the customer’s most-pressing need(s): When dealing with a situation that requires a high-degree of emotional intelligence and empathy, in order to be helpful, it is vital to identify the core of what is upsetting or bothering the customer. As an example, perhaps there is a personal situation (ie: a celebration, family drama) that is making shipping time vital to that customer – even more so than an ordinary delivery. Clearly identify and have the customer hear you spell out that you understand the issue at hand. From there, it is easy to come up with actionable items to solve the issue and bring a happy solution to the customer. 
  3. Extend Empathy to Your Digital Footprint: While it is obvious that a direct human connection is preferable when dealing with sensitive CX interactions., it is important to remember that a digital experience can also be empathetic if you have the right amount of personalization. Identify partners (we use Gorgias) which have the complexity and ability to mimic your brand’s ethos and values. Not all AI tools (ie: chatbots) are created the same. Spend the time and budget to make sure your digital space feels authentic, warm, and inviting. 

Fred Rogers’ famous advice to “look for the helpers” extends to customer experience. At the end of the day, we love what we do at Horatio as we get to do just that – help customers solve their problems and turn their day around. Additionally, putting a customer’s needs first will always lead to a better outcome for your own brand (repeat transactions, referrals).  In short, a strong dose of empathy and understanding is a win-win. Most importantly your customers’ needs will be met in the kindest way possible. 


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