Omnichannel human support and empathy: challenges and solutions

20 April 2021 | 141 Shares

Source: Shutterstock

Few things have changed more in the last two years than how people want to interact with the organisations that provide them with services and goods. A few years ago, only low-level enquiries were serviced via automated, electronic means. Now the use of digital channels is increasing, with more complex queries able to be addressed without the support of human agents.

This has led to the customer service representatives’ (CSR) roles shifting significantly, with consumers now relying heavily on voice channels to help them resolve situations that cannot be solved purely via self-service or digital channels.

The emotionally charged nature of many calls has been exacerbated by customer-imposed isolation, seismic changes in working practices and economic upheavals. CSRs themselves, of course, are under the same pressures as their customers, having to work from home at least some of the time.

Empathy

Source: Shutterstock

Helping staff transition from the call centre to home working and their new roles as staffing the “empathy channel” challenges many organisations. A couple of years ago, supervisors could “walk the floor”, listen in on conversations and help, guiding and training staff on site. All that, of course, has changed.

Most CSR managers have reported (in this Opportunity Snapshot, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of CallMiner) impacts on their organisation’s long-term contact centre management approach, with 65% increasing investment in CSR experience improvements.

The role of CSRs in providing frontline support is a huge part of customer experience, and de-escalating problems over voice channels can stop end-users from coming away with poor opinions of the brand. Decision-makers are, therefore, right to target CSR experiences — employee experience correlates directly with customer experience.

Asking customer service representatives and their managers to become “empathy experts” overnight would be a hard ask, even in more – shall we say, normal — times. In isolation, CSRs need support, yet the Forrester Opportunity Snapshot study reveals that 53% of decision-makers struggle to understand a customer’s entire journey — surely a pre-requisite to understanding the situation?

It’s perhaps not surprising that many CSRs encounter the more common pitfalls when transitioning to remote work and adopting these more empathetic roles. The same study states that 57% of decision-makers are struggling to support their CSR supervisors, who in turn feel they lack the support to help ground troop CSRs manage stress (59%) and assist them dynamically (62%).

The go-to answers to these pitfalls need to be providing coaching opportunities, giving behavioural insights, guidance for identifying customer emotions and equipping staff with suitable approaches and responses.

Given the majority (67%) of organisations say at least some of their contact centres will continue to be hybrid and/or remote, how should customer care functions address the gap between new customer expectations and the realities of providing high-quality customer experiences?

Empathy

Source: Shutterstock

The Forrester Snapshot study’s conclusions are twofold. Brands must equip CSRs, supervisors, and decision-makers with a complete picture of the data that describes every customer’s journey. How customers feel about every interaction is a key metric in helping build superb customer experiences.

The second conclusion places automated evaluation and coaching systems in supervisors’ hands to help their new “empathy engines” – the CSRs – respond better during every touchpoint. Without technological advances like AI, this is simply not achievable at scale and certainly not in real-time.

You can download the Forrester Opportunity Snapshot here and read the full study. From there, why not check out our editorial piece on a technology that offers AI-driven real-time communication analysis that’s used across multiple channels by some of the world’s leading brands?

It’s the type of technology that’s perfectly suited to the new working paradigm challenging many customer care facilities across the world and helps bridge the gaps between organisations, employees, and customers.