Efficient/empathetic CX key during costs crisis

28th Oct 2022

2022 has been a difficult year financially for consumers as the cost of living crisis tightens its grip, inflation takes hold and interest rates rise. With no significant respite in sight, businesses must ensure they are communicating effectively and with empathy as they support customers in their time of need. 

The UK Office for National Statistics recently found that around 9 in 10 (89%) adults in Great Britain continue to report that their cost of living has increased, equal to around 46 million people. Fuelled in part by a rise in inflation and the increase in energy prices, it was predicted that millions in the UK would not be able to afford to pay utility bills this autumn. Although the recently announced energy price cap freeze will help in part to limit this pain, households across the country are still expected to struggle, all the more so if they have a mortgage. 

Whether it is utilities, tax, or rent that concerned bill-payers are struggling with, businesses must take this opportunity to review how they are communicating with those in difficult situations. The first, and most important, step on this journey is ensuring that your business can offer empathetic support to customers. Interactions are likely to be complex and highly stressful for those reaching out to a business for support, so providing a reassurance is vital. But how can this be done in an age of increasingly digitised customer experience journeys? 

The human touch 

Human-to-human customer interactions have the ability to provide enhanced empathy experiences, and in testing times building bonds on a human level is vital. Whether interactions are coming through traditional channels such as the phone, or digital channels such as social media or web chat, having human instinct and empathy is key to dealing with enquiries of a sensitive nature. 

Although we tend think of human-to-human connections happening more via a phone conversation, this channel isn’t always the best fit for customers in today’s environment, and there are many other options that customers can use. An omnichannel approach allows consumers to make contact with organisations in the most effective way for them, but the role of the human service agent is still vital to offering first-class experience, no matter the channel. 

Technology is key

Communicating on a human level is important, but this doesn’t count technology out of the process. In fact, tech plays a vital role from the moment a customer reaches out. With the support of an intelligent routing system, businesses can identify caller intent before passing them to the most suitable agent, cutting down on handling time and avoiding transfers between departments, which can frustrate customers. 

Once transferred to the most appropriate destination, an AI-backed knowledge management solution can screen-pop all relevant customer data to the agent. This removes manual look-ups from the agent’s task list to improve Average Handle Time, while providing employees with the personalised information they need to ensure a smooth dialogue. This is important, as a seamless interaction leaves more time for the agent to connect with the customer on a human level and deliver an empathetic experience. 

Providing information to agents through AI 

The combination of agent and technology key to providing first-class service, and ensuring it acts as a toolkit to manage a wide range of situations effectively is crucial for setting up both human and tech for success. One key aspect to consider is artificial intelligence (AI): infusing this into digital customer platforms can help speed up decision making and make it easier to provide customers with the most relevant products and services for their needs. Integrating AI technology into the Customer Experience (CX) enables proactive and frictionless customer journeys that make consumers feel they are known and valued. 

Achieving the human touch without direct human contact  

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to CX, and those who choose to use channels such as web chat will still be looking for the human touch. AI and automation, although obviously non-human, can provide a personal feel, thanks to technology that allows customer-facing chatbots to deliver automated interactions in human-like manner. In this way, businesses are able to tailor every conversation with customers, no matter which channel they opt to use, ensuring that even if a human isn’t physically present in an interaction, the encounter has all the hallmarks of one that would. A key pillar of the personalised experience, whether delivered by a tech-supported human or a well taught machine, is showing empathy and an understanding of not only a customer’s situation but also the wider societal and economical challenges that are potentially triggering their need for support. 

With the current cost of living crisis set to last into 2023, we are not looking at a short term situation that businesses can ride out. It is imperative that organisations review their customer engagement processes to ensure all channels of contact offer a truly empathetic experience in people’s time of need. Ensuring the right approach is fully implemented now will futureproof the organisation’s CX strategy while placing efficiency and empathy at the heart of every customer journey. 


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