The importance of understanding emotion in digital channels
Research already shows that consumers want a balance between the human touch and technology when it comes to customer service. There are times when they want to access information as quickly as possible in order to speed up the customer journey, and turn to self-service, chatbots or messaging apps. However, at other points they have more complex, personal needs that require the emotional understanding and empathy that humans provide. Demonstrating this, 71% of British consumers surveyed by Accenture said they’d rather speak to a person when they wanted advice, rather than deal with technology.
However, as new research from Thomas Husson of Forrester shows, just because consumers are using a technology-led touchpoint, it doesn’t mean they don’t want an emotionally driven experience. This is particularly true of messaging apps or chatbots, which are normally accessed via mobile and are consequently very personal channels, normally used for communicating informally with family and friends. Consumers want a two-way conversation, and expect it to match their needs and the channel itself.
What does this mean for brands? They have to understand and demonstrate emotion when talking to consumers on these channels – not easy when 70% of emotional meaning is delivered through non-verbal clues such as body language and tone of voice, all of which are unavailable when communicating digitally.
How can brands overcome this gap? There are three ways:
1. Use emotional shortcuts
The difficult of showing (and understanding) emotion on digital channels has already led to the creation of specific ways for consumers to demonstrate their feelings on messaging apps. As Thomas Husson says, emojis, smileys and GIFs all give valuable context to ‘normal’ text, providing a shortcut to understanding how people are feeling in a way that words alone cannot do. Consumers are already used to adding emojis to their messages – and receiving them from others on messaging apps.
Therefore, brands need to tap into this existing library of emotional content – both by analyzing it within incoming messages and by using relevant emojis themselves where applicable. Clearly, this has to fit in with the audience they are talking to, the values of the brand and the message being conveyed – being too flippant with emojis when a customer is annoyed will justifiably make them angrier and damage brand reputation. However, used in context they can provide a valuable way of engaging, understanding and extending the relationship.
2. Use AI to deepen understanding
Whatever the digital channel, consumers expect you to understand them, first time, and provide a relevant, accurate and informed response. Emojis can help to a certain degree, but to build a stronger understanding brands need to invest in artificial intelligence-powered systems that use Natural Language Processing (NLP), Text Analytics and Machine Learning to analyze incoming interactions and empower agents with the context they require to respond confidently. By being able to drill down and understand what consumers actually mean, and by providing agents with suggested answers that they can then personalize, AI helps brands to build a deeper relationship with customers and to hold a two-way conversation with them.
3. Learn from emotion across the organization
Understanding the emotion within specific conversations helps solve individual customer issues, but this insight can have a much wider and more company-wide use. By analyzing all relevant conversations, including the emotion within them, you can gain deeper customer intelligence insight. By then empowering all departments within the business with these actionable insights your brand can take action more widely to improve the overall customer experience. Customer expectations are continually increasing - the only way to differentiate your brand is therefore through continual improvement, and understanding the emotional aspect of your customer conversations is at the heart of knowing what to change and where to innovate.
Research from Forrester found that two of the top priorities for brands in 2018 are to address rising customer expectations (70%) and to improve the experience of customers (62%). The rewards are potentially enormous - stock market analysis shows that a portfolio of CX leaders grew their share price by 32%, outperform the S&P 500 average (17%) and CX laggards, who only achieved a 3% growth. Emotion can therefore be the key differentiator for brands, enabling them to deliver a fast, seamless service, and to engage with consumers on an emotional level, building long-term relationships. That means that companies need to focus on understanding using emotion and empathy, whatever the channel, and whatever the device, if they want to win and retain consumer trust and loyalty with ever-more demanding consumers.