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Walking the talk: Are brands as focused on empathy in customer service as they are in their marketing?


Organisations have put great focus on empathy and compassion in their marketing campaigns in the last 18 months. But how committed are they to improving empathy in their service experiences? New research from MyCustomer uncovers the truth. 

1st Nov 2021
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Brands have heavily pushed the importance of compassion and empathy in their marketing campaigns over the past 18 months - indeed an insightful video analysis of the similarities between many campaigns went viral last year, highlighting the common use of the same phrases: “We’ve always been there for you,” “We may be apart, but we can stay connected,” “We’ll get through this together.”

But new research from MyCustomer and Genesys suggests that this hasn't translated into efforts to improve empathy in customer service interactions, which could lead to accusations that brands are talking the talk, without walking the walk. 

For the report, MyCustomer and Genesys commissioned Savanta to conduct a study in July this year, examining how well brands think they understand and acknowledge their customers’ emotional state during service interactions, and what steps organisations have put in place to improve empathy in their customer interactions. 

The study polled a survey group of over 200 senior customer service and customer experience professionals about their customer service interactions, tools, technologies and techniques.

In a previous MyCustomer consumer study, we revealed that over a third of respondents said that their emotional state was neither understood or acknowledged in customer service interactions with organisations - meaning there was huge room for improvement for today's businesses. And sure enough, the vast majority (85%) of those we polled this year told us that their organisation has got better at delivering empathy in service interactions in the past 18 months.

However, these words were not backed up by action. With so many respondents telling us that their organisations have increased empathy in their service interactions over the past 18 months, we compared the techniques, tools and technologies they were using pre-2020 with those that they are using currently, to identify what investments and improvements they have made. 

And when we made that comparison, it was clear that there was very little difference in the technologies and techniques used now and those used prior to 2020. 

“This is a paradigm we have seen before; businesses consistently overestimate their performance compared to how customers would rate it,” notes Peter Dorrington, founder of XMplify Consulting. 

And this could be particularly damaging for those organisations that have heavily focused on compassion and empathy in their recent marketing campaigns. 

Helen Briggs, senior vice president and general manager for EMEA at Genesys warns: “Companies that do not deliver on their promise of empathy can expect that they will experience a decline in customer loyalty. Without the loyalty in place, businesses are at risk of losing their customer base and in the ever-competitive landscape today, it is something they cannot afford.”

Is empathy in customer service more important than ever?

Despite this, the research reveals that the vast majority of organisations believe that empathy is an important component of their customer service engagements. When we asked respondents how important they believe it is that their organisations display empathy/compassion in their service interactions with customers, the overwhelming majority (89%) told us that it was “very important”. 

And unsurprisingly, given the disruption and distress caused by the pandemic, our respondents almost unanimously told us that they believe that empathy is more important to their customers than it was 18 months ago. Only 3% said that they didn’t believe it had become more important to their customers. 

“Because of the pandemic, people have had to deal with unexpected changes to their lifestyles and livelihoods. This, in turn, has meant that they now want the organisations they deal with on a regular basis to have more understanding for their personal circumstances and to actively listen and offer solutions to their issues,” explains Briggs. ”Empathy today creates trust and that trust in turn creates loyalty. In the era of personalisation, empathy serves as a key driver and differentiator in winning the loyalty of customers. Ultimately this loyalty will drive growth.”

Download the report to find out more about how organisations are measuring and improving empathy in their customer service interactions, and learn ways in which you can also improve empathy in your own customer service interactions.  





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