How Empathy and Technology Can Build Customer Loyalty
The pandemic has altered the journeys taken by both companies and customers. How we offer services and products, and where and how we meet customers has changed. But it hasn’t stalled the expectations customers have for where and why they buy.
Customers today are expecting warm and knowledgeable interactions with companies. Over the past year, 50 percent of consumers have reported having a bad customer support experience. And more concerning, 20 percent believe the customer experience has gotten worse since the pandemic.
According to CCW Digital, 95 percent judge a company’s brand by how friendly their agents are. And savvy consumers are judging brands by all the interactions they have, including mobile and digital ones.
And today’s customer demands are not unreasonable. Our survey of executives revealed these top customer expectations: knowledgeable support teams (65 percent), first-time problem solving (59 percent) and quick resolution (50 percent). And in our survey of 2,000 consumers, nearly 40 percent said having an “opportunity to speak to a human agent” was a top-three requirement for having a happy customer service experience.
So, how do companies demonstrate empathy and reduce customer effort in your service experience to improve customer loyalty? That’s the topic of a recent webinar hosted by CCW Digital and featuring Steve Petruk, president of our Global Outsourcing division and Doug Stephen, president of our Enterprise Learning division, along with Brian Cantor, Principal Analyst & CCW Digital Director. Read on for some key takeaways.
What Is Customer Loyalty?
Customer loyalty can be thought about and measured in different ways depending on the industry. But generally, loyalty is a step beyond customer retention. “If you’re trying to retain customers, you are in danger of losing them,” said Petruk. “Customer loyalty is creating an environment where customers are not only not considering a change or move from your product, but also actively encouraging others to use your product.”
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is one measurement that helps companies understand loyalty. In a world where it is easier than ever for new competition to enter the market, customer loyalty will be a driving need for companies to maintain their influence and share. Building a loyal customer base will help you survive and thrive in a complex global business environment.
“If you’re trying to retain customers, you are in danger of losing them. Customer loyalty is creating an environment where customers are not only not considering a change or move from your product, but also actively encouraging others to use your product.” – Steve Petruk, CGS
You have probably seen the statistics around customer retention. It can cost 5 to 10 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. Loyalty takes that a step further, where your customers become influencers, expanding your base with no extra investment other than providing exceptional experiences.
Pain Points and Customer Effort
“Delivering easy and convenient experiences is the number 1 way to get and keep customers,” said Cantor. It speaks to how important customer effort is to your business.
Companies can boost their loyalty by reducing customer effort and addressing/easing pain points in the support experience. The speakers addressed three common pain points as examples:
1. Long Wait Times
The pandemic created longer wait times for many companies. Customers had to wait for hours in some cases to remedy even basic support requests.
2. Untrained or Under-trained Agents
Ill-equipped agents make for bad service calls and support experiences. Negative experiences reflect poorly on your brand and can be even more pronounced nowadays due to distributed workforces, reliance on gig workers and lack of access to internal peers and specialists.
3. Cold, Inefficient Experiences
Customers are fed up with being bounced around in a system, from menu to menu or agent to agent. They don’t wish to repeat the same information 15 times. Are the agents reading only from a script, or are they human beings connecting with human beings? Many companies have added layers of customer effort where there needn’t be any.
Empathy to Ease Pain
While ensuring strong empathy during your live agent experience may seem more obvious, it’s also important throughout your customers’ digital support experience. Cantor said that one common misconception is that “empathy and effort are mutually exclusive, that companies can be either really efficient or warm and intuitive.” This is not true. Also contrary to what some believe, empathy is a teachable soft skill.
While achieving empathy is a moving target, it means that companies and agents understand the problem customers are experiencing. They understand the culture or environment in which the customer is having the issue. It means offering friendly, understanding and professional service. It means knowing the intention and urgency behind the customer’s need. And it starts at the journey design level. Support pages, knowledgebases, self-service and human agents all should exhibit empathy and meet the customer where they are.
Augmented reality technology with object recognition overlay
Technology and Loyalty
Coupled with empathetic people and processes, technology is another great way to reduce customer effort and build loyalty. Technology is not the enemy of the agent-led experience; when used correctly, it’s a strong source of empowerment for agents and customers. You can do this through AI, machine learning and augmented reality immersive tech (AR).
With your self-service options, companies can build in personalization and humanity. Powerful search, targeted suggestions and AI chatbots can get your customers the answers they need for simple, fast solutions. And with seamless integration, customers can reach a human agent for more complex issues.
In addition to intelligent IVR systems and AI, AR provides a hands-on, immersive experience that can help connect customers and companies to troubleshoot and resolve use or repair issues. This improves customer views on a brand, its longevity and commitment and creates greater loyalty toward future purchases.
“Ultimately, [customers] don’t need the best conversation. They want the knowledge and tech to solve an issue.” – Brian Cantor, CCW Digital
“We’re past the days of relying on manufacturers for repair. We want the right to repair,” said Petruk. In our 2021 survey, 71 percent of consumers had assembled or repaired a product during the pandemic. Some 27 percent had thrown away a household item because it was too inconvenient to get help to repair it. And 43 percent are interested in using AR with an agent to get help in repairing a device or appliance. By focusing on DIY culture and providing AR support, companies can maintain and drive increased loyalty while reducing replacement rates.
It’s the latest tech, and no extra equipment is required. Imagine a situation where a commercial or consumer customer is experiencing an issue with a device that cannot easily be shipped or repaired in-store or at home. Agents equipped with AR can provide over-the-shoulder support, seeing what the customer sees, and offer interactive pointers and steps to take to resolve the issue. It’s available from a simple URL sent by text message.
Taken a step further, you have object recognition’s power in support. With a mobile device and the app, a user can open the device’s camera, point it at the device, which recognizes and loads various instructional steps, voice guidance, videos, documentation and more. The customer sees what steps to take, even where to stand to view and take steps from additional angles.
Keys to Success
Getting to loyalty means reducing customer effort and measuring for success. “Ultimately, [customers] don’t need the best conversation,” said Cantor, “they want the knowledge and tech to solve an issue.” If it’s easy to get what they want, the company showed they care about who they are, the agent valued them, they will like the brand, trust it and even recommend it.
Petruk also suggested companies should focus more on alignment of agents’ skills with right solution or position. With AI onboarding processes, you can place agents in the best role for success and support them with eLearning that offers practical, solid insights and training.
Empathy and technology don’t just make the experience better. It also makes your employee better, puts a face to your support and adds more warmth into customer interactions. It means greater loyalty and positive brand recognition.
If you’re ready and looking for more help to reduce customer effort and focus on brand loyalty, you can watch the full, informative discussion on our site.