Main Feature Technology APAC

How the pandemic transformed the customer experience agent into empathetic community manager

Customer experience is founded on customer expectations. Marketing leaders must understand the evolving expectations that consumers have of their interactions with brands – this includes customer experience and support that, hopefully, meets their needs but ideally delivers above and beyond these expectations. 

As the pandemic turns endemic, delivering a consistently excellent customer experience is by no means an easy feat. Safety measures to protect our health and well-being have created a next normal for marketers. In fact, brand and marketing decision-makers need to constantly calibrate and innovate how they deliver on their brand’s promise and keep an engaged audience base.

The silver lining is that this scenario provides a real case for rolling out genuine omnichannel customer delivery and engagement models – something that has, for far too long, been relegated to the back burner for many brands. By setting new goals for customer service standards, relooking operational processes, and investing in technology solutions, strengthening consumer connections is possible even in a time when change abounds and reliability is imperative.

As such, we’ve seen customer experience agents take on multiple and increasingly important roles: from technicians and consultative sellers to today’s need for them to be empathetic community managers.

Not just a touch-feely bonus: The importance of empathy today

A recent McKinsey study reported that businesses that have empathy towards the customer will have a net positive benefit on their bottom line. Among 170 publicly traded companies examined, the top 10 with outstanding empathy ratings outperformed the bottom 10 by two times on the stock market.

Today’s environment has led to general expectations of a certain level of emotional empathy, no matter who we are interacting with. And brands are not spared – digital empathy and human empathy have taken on a new urgency.

How the pandemic transformed the customer experience agent into empathetic community manager

Brands now have to understand audience emotions, their feelings, and thoughts, their pressures, their desired digital and real-world experiences, and even anticipate future reactions. Empathetic brands that are using this period to rethink, reinvent, and leapfrog will most certainly be developing evolved blueprints for the entire pre-, during, and post-transaction customer journey as a result. At the frontlines of the customer journey – the shape-shifting customer experience agent, who must now play multiple roles.

Technology as an ironic accelerator for empathy

Some may think empathy and technology don’t go together. In fact, technology can help customer experience agents manage their hybrid roles and fulfill the need to be empathetic community managers. By combining proactive support with increased automation, brands can provide personalized support engagement at scale, without sacrificing empathy.

By centralizing omnichannel communications with customers, organizations can upgrade and reinvent the role of customer experience agents. For example, with the ability to manage communication over Instagram and other social media channels through industry-leading contact-center-as-a-solution services available in the market today, customer experience agents have the ability to become community management extraordinaires. Empowering agents with 360-degree customer profiles and full conversation histories all in one place will allow them to unlock valuable insights and provide fast and personalized customer support.

How the pandemic transformed the customer experience agent into empathetic community manager

Unlocking the power of social media messaging for customer support is more important than ever as we consider these stats from data from global cloud communications platform, Infobip: 70% of people globally expect to message businesses for customer service questions, and 64% would rather message than call a business.

As agents and representatives help transform customer interactions from being transactional to becoming more involved, these experiences are likely to be highly engaged, emotionally charged, and mission-critical for loyalty and retention. Consumers will also in turn anticipate that agents demonstrate they understand their problems and provide relevant reassurance.

This points to agents needing to be able to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and build quick rapport. This doesn’t just affect formats that provide visual and verbal cues – it also applies to digital channels such as chat, email, and social media, where agents cannot be certain of the tone of the conversation.

AI is maturing and here to help

While human empathy is natural, artificial empathy must be learned based on the data collected within the rules or framework set up by a human. This is where technology like artificial intelligence (AI) can come into play. AI that analyzes incoming messages and highlights factors like sentiment, helps prepare agents to respond accordingly.

Thanks to natural language processing (NLP), we can communicate with chatbots using human speech. NLP is an area of AI that helps chatbots understand the way your customers communicate.In other words, it means enabling machines, like chatbots, to communicate the way humans would. 

How the pandemic transformed the customer experience agent into empathetic community manager

An NLP chatbot is an AI chatbot that uses natural language processing, based on deep learning, to better identify a customer’s intent and therefore provide more valuable support. 

From the customer’s point of view, NLP helps them feel understood. From a brand’s point of view, these chatbots elevate customer support, create helpful dialogue, and capture insights into your customers’ goals and challenges. This lets you build a brand voice while simultaneously providing a customer-centric approach. 

Chatbots provide instant answers. And when boosted by NLP, they’ll quickly understand customer questions to respond faster than humans can. In addition to text, these chatbots can enhance the natural conversation experience by sharing helpful images (product images), videos (how-to videos, product explainers), map locations (store or service center finders), and more. These lightning-quick responses help build customer trust and positively impact customer satisfaction as well as retention rates. 

How the pandemic transformed the customer experience agent into empathetic community manager
Malaysian Insurance company Gibraltar BSN launched GINA in 2019

Take for example Gibraltar BSN, a Malaysian life insurance company offering life and medical insurance along with saving and investment plans. The insurer had concerns that too many customers in Malaysia had not received important and sensitive documents sent through the post, especially during the pandemic. The company also wanted to optimize its contact center in a way that would allow them to engage customers using modern digital channels but still provide a critical level of empathy during a sensitive time.

By deploying AI-powered NLP chatbots, Gibraltar BSN facilitated the creation of its automated chatbot – GINA. With GINA handling simple customer service inquiries, human agents can help clients with more complex inquiries and offer a more personalized approach. Gibraltar BSN saw a 40% reduction in cost for delivering e-policies after rolling out this transformation.

Harnessing the full potential of the customer experience function

With the right level of support given to customer experience agents, the potential for businesses to exceed consumer expectations in a digital world is limitless. Today, customer experience, service, and support – an oft-neglected function – have the aid of readily available technology to bring another dimension of brand success.

For marketing leaders, working with CX is about quickly adapting to and adopting emerging technologies for their benefit. Be one of the first businesses to leapfrog and handle messaging at scale on social media, connect to new customers, and strengthen relationships with existing ones.

This article is written by Viven Ang, regional manager for APAC at Infobip.