The ability of Conversational AI to effectively simulate human-like conversation has always fuelled a debate over whether AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can replace human agents entirely. There is a lot of excitement and discussion around the rapid development of AI technologies like Natural Language Processing (NLP), Deep Learning, and Machine Learning. But there is one component of Conversational AI that is usually less spoken of, without which these robust technologies will be ineffective. That is empathy.
The Cambridge Dictionary has defined empathy as: the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.
Let us learn more about the importance of Empathy in improving Customer Experience with Intelligent Virtual Assistants.
Customer Experience and Empathy
An Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) is one of the strongest and most effective tools to create meaningful relationship with your customers at different touch points. What provides virtual assistants the power to transform customer experience is the amalgamation of different technologies and empathy.
One competitive advantage that businesses should develop is how empathetic they are towards their customers and how much empathy they incorporate into their decision-making processes
As per the Empathy Index, 2016 by Harvard Business Review, the top 10 companies in the Global Empathy Index 2015 increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10, and generated 50% more earnings.
In this context, the one question discussed frequently is: “Will IVAs be as empathetic as human agents?” There is no quantitative data as yet to prove that, but the development of Natural Language Processing and Deep Learning provides virtual assistants the necessary tools to understand emotions and predict the feelings of the consumers from the tone of their messages. How the IVAs respond to these messages is a direct result of how empathetic the conversation flow has been designed.
Empathy becomes particularly crucial during a time of crisis. If there is one thing that has helped us survive the COVID-19 pandemic, it is empathy. Different bodies have used this superpower to solve problems faced by their people. Now, more than ever in human history, companies need to find better and more effective ways to communicate with their customers and enhance the level of customer service. There is a greater need for companies to understand the turbulence of emotions and feelings their customers are going through and communicate accordingly with them.
How to Build Empathetic Conversations for Virtual Assistants
A good Conversation Designer ensures that the Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVA) are always equipped with empathic responses to build a better relationship with the customer. As Michelle Parayill, Senior Conversation Designer at Haptik rightly says, “Empathy is one of the keystones of Conversation Design. It’s important to avoid dry and robotic sounding copy when you’re trying to communicate in an empathetic and humane manner. A simple variation, like saying “I’m listening and completely understand how you feel” as opposed to “ok”, can go a long way.”
Let us now take a look at a few things you need to keep in mind while developing empathetic IVAs:
1. Start from the start
The purpose of developing virtual assistants with empathy is to make them more human-like. Every human being on this planet has a name, a face and a personality. While inculcating these factors in IVAs, be mindful about the overall positioning strategy of your brand in the minds of the customers. The goal here is to make the machine sound less robotic and more human.
2. Do not push but assist
No one likes to be sold to. They purchase your product or services to solve their problems, and not to drive your business. Do not make product recommendations with every message but assist them in understanding their problems and how your product or service can help them in solving the problem. If the customer is adamant about sharing personal or confidential information or does not want to purchase your product right away, make sure you communicate that you understand and support their decision.
3. Help them to exit
The primary purpose of an IVA is not to have conversations, but to enhance the customer experience. If at any point, the customer wishes to talk to a human agent, make sure there is a process in place for that. Help your customers with getting in touch with the human agent, ask for their feedback on the interaction with the human agent, and make sure their queries are resolved.
4. Unleash the power of Emotion AI
Emotion AI helps businesses to understand consumer behavior with respect to how they react to different situations. Chatbots can explore Emotion AI to recognize the urgency and applicability of consumers by the tone and words of their message.
Advantages of Empathetic Virtual Assistants
Implementing an empathetic Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) solution can significantly boost customer satisfaction for brands across verticals. Here are a few reasons why your brand should definitely look to add empathy to your virtual assistants:
1. Better relationship with customers
Customers love to interact with chatbots and virtual assistants that do not act like robots and machines. Once the customers are comfortable with sharing information, the brands can develop better relationships with them, since they exactly know the customers’ feelings and thoughts.
2. Helps in building a brand
Empathy can make your customers feel understood. A conversation powered with empathy will increase customers’ likability towards your brand. Once the customer has become a loyal customer, he will become the brand advocate for your company and help you in the brand building process. The best part? It is free!
3. Helps enhance customer experience
Conversations driven by empathetic virtual assistants will inspire customers to talk to the IVA for a longer period. This will help the company to gather more data pertinent to their business. The company will now leverage this data to create better experiences for customers interacting with the IVA in the future.
To sum up
From the above-mentioned points, we have understood how important a role empathy plays in driving business growth. Empathy has played a huge role in transforming how customers perceive Conversational AI, which in turn has had a positive impact on its adoption by businesses.
Daniel Kahneman, 2002 Nobel Prize winner said in his 2011 book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” that “We are not thinking machines that feel, we are feeling machines that think.” And as far as possible, the same should be true for our Intelligent Virtual Assistants!