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The Modern Customer Podcast

The Modern Customer Podcast is a show exploring the intersection of customer experience, social customer service and content. We will also dive into related leadership topics. The show is hosted by Forbes contributor and customer experience strategist Blake Morgan and features guests that include practitioners, authors, influencers and other tastemakers.
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Apr 23, 2019

Two of the biggest buzzwords in customer experience are AI and empathy. But are the two concepts mutually exclusive, or can they be used together to create a harmonious customer experience?

Dr. Rob Walker, Vice President Decision Management at Pegasystems, believes customer-facing AI initiatives can be programed to be empathetic. However, empathy is often lacking in customer interactions. It’s difficult for customers to feel empathy from brands when they are being spammed, have to repeat themselves constantly or are forced into irrelevant conversations. The majority of modern customer interactions are driven by AI, and there is a need to add empathy to those conversations.

In order to show empathy in the customer experience, Dr. Walker says brands must make every conversation one-to-one. Many companies fall into the trap of traditional marketing and send the same message to every customer, which often ends up with customers getting multiple messages from different departments of the same company. It’s confusing and overwhelming. A one-to-one conversation focuses on the need of each individual instead of simply blasting them with the same message as everyone else.

Another important principle is to take the customer’s view. Companies need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes and consider if their approach is appropriate or relevant. Just because a company can sell a customer something, should it? Understanding a customer’s circumstance can quickly build and show empathy.

Personal experiences naturally build more empathy. It’s easier for customers to see empathy from a company when they interact with the brand one on one instead of just being part of the masses. AI plays a crucial role in identifying opportunities for a personalized approach. AI allows companies to target specific customers. It can decide the most relevant approach in real time that creates the most mutual value for customers. Instead of human employees having to guess their way through a conversation, AI makes it possible for companies to be more exact in their approach.  

Combining AI and empathy to best connect with customers can require a culture shift in many companies. In a truly customer-centric organization, different departments won’t compete with each other because they want to do what is best for the customer.

Dr. Walker recommends operationalizing AI and empathy, but says that brands shouldn’t look too far out because technology and ideas are moving quickly. AI is constantly changing and could soon infer empathy. For now, it is a powerful tool in creating personalized experiences that allow for more connection between customers and brands, which naturally builds more empathy.

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