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Empathy-driven innovation is key to business success, and Genesys’ Erwann Thomassain lays out why

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — There are no signs of digitalization slowing down, and with its acceleration comes the need to innovate, particularly as customers demand efficiency and convenience. While these in themselves are far from bad things, when digital products and services are designed with nothing but operational efficiencies and the bottom line in mind, it sacrifices a much greater thing in the process: empathy.

Empathy, not only in products and services but also in operations, is the key to delivering an individualized, personalized, and authentic customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX). Only through empathy-driven innovation are businesses able to grow in a way that is not only profitable but beneficial to their customers and sustainable for the company.

In fact, when customer and employee experiences are put at the heart of the business via an empathy-driven strategy, businesses are rewarded with a valuable asset that has become difficult to acquire and retain in today’s age of brutally honest online reviews and employee forums: loyalty.

Erwann Thomassain

This is why Genesys, an established leader in the customer experience technology industry, does the work it does — Genesys helps businesses create seamless and personalized systems, services, and products that enrich the ways customers interact with them.

To get a better idea of the significance of CX and EX in a business’s success, adobo Magazine spoke to Genesys APAC Marketing VP Erwann Thomassain. With 20 years of B2B and B2C marketing under his belt, it’s no surprise that Erwann had a lot of enlightening insights on how companies infuse intelligence across the empathy pillars, the ability to measure empathy in CX and EX, and what the future holds for customer experience in Asia.

adobo: Genesys prides itself on empathy-driven innovation. Can you give us specific examples of how empathy can factor into digital products and services? What does it look like when empathy isn’t present?

Erwann: Technology has a huge role to play in delivering empathy that allows customers and employees to feel heard, seen, and understood. It’s not only voice, email, and SMS – it’s also web chat, messaging apps, and social media that have created varied engagement frontiers for the customer. In short, it’s a digital ecosystem that needs to cater to customer needs (social, behavioral, and psychological) and expectations (for personalized, seamless experiences) across all channels, all at the same time.

To address the empathy gap, the CX experience needs to be interactive. For example, to help brands with the skills necessary for delivering empathetic, personalized experiences, Genesys created a subscription-based eLearning solution, BeyondCX. It teaches contact center employees and supervisors soft skills necessary for delivering empathetic, personalized experiences in today’s digital world through a television show-like format that uses high-quality video production, the power of storytelling, and the latest skills-development techniques to immerse participants in the world of customer experience (CX).

When empathy driven by technology is absent – it is hard for businesses to connect across an endless digital landscape and provide the high-quality and personalized service customers expect which will impact the bottom line in the long run. In fact, according to the Genesys State of Customer Experience study, 80% of consumers say they would buy more if a company could promise them a personalized experience at every transaction. One in every three consumers say they would avoid a company after just one unpleasant experience.

How do you communicate the importance of empathy to other execs who still aren’t integrating it into their business strategies?

It’s a matter of brand perspective. If the lens is to view the customer as a cost, then the investment in automation may actually increase customer frustration. Conversely, by focusing on the customer and employee experiences first, the metric of success is neither cost nor speed; it’s loyalty. The fundamental point of communication is to wear the boots of the customer and reorient the business from that point of view.

Stakeholder capitalism doesn’t mean business momentum has to be sacrificed for the sake of aligning values and earning trust. In reality, a business that has the trust of employees and customers has a strategic advantage. In one of the studies we conducted, we found that nearly half of consumers said the companies they regularly do business with don’t show them enough empathy when delivering customer service. In a world where loyalty is declining, it is imperative that businesses find new ways to connect and build a relationship with their customers and employees alike. Consumers do take note of companies that are people-centric and reward them with loyalty.

Loyalty is perhaps the most convincing currency to communicate the importance of empathy. Customers who feel heard and understood are more loyal. In a world of endless choices, customers can vote with their wallets, changing brands as they please. The net result is that it impacts the bottom line.

What do you think is key to making sure technology and automation don’t take away from empathy when it comes to engaging customers? Can AI complement empathy and engage consumers?

Automation promises significant cost, quality, and speed improvements, but realizing those benefits requires an action plan on the part of the leadership. Leaders must treat automation as a principle to be embraced, rather than as a project to be done, for technology is the simplest thing in the whole equation. Enterprises should identify the right success criteria that benefit customers.

AI steps in with actionable insights, something not possible for humans to produce at scale. However, AI is not magic, AI needs to be made relevant by delivering empathetic experiences and this is where AI-based Enterprise Journey Analytics is becoming critical as it helps companies uncover points of customer friction, and detect opportunities, thus providing a deeper understanding of the connection between customer behavior and business outcomes and prioritizing areas for improvement.

Companies need to infuse intelligence across the empathy pillars (listen, understand, act, learn), not as AI point solutions. Many of today’s AI applications deliver industry-specific capabilities built with domain expertise. And they’re designed for customization. As a result, analytics yield actionable insights that target the unique needs of the business. To get the most out of AI, we will need to go beyond a continuous improvement mindset and adopt a commitment to continuous innovation. When we balance the contributions of man and machine, AI empowers us to know and understand our customers and employees better — to engage with more empathy and drive meaningful results.

What does a successful customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) look like? Can you share examples from Asia of brands that are getting it right?

In the Philippines, financial services provider, Tonik (aimed to serve unbanked Filipinos) launched with an unflinching focus on CX and EX. Tonik set out to pioneer the next-generation financial platform with the launch of the first neobank in the Philippines and bring about an innovative culture to the banking system. It strategized on penetrating the modern channels of social media and video KYC (Know Your Customer) with a razor focus on providing seamless and contextual CX services. Tonik designed its product suite as face-to-face interactions came to a halt because of pandemic restrictions.

The bank put in place an intuitive platform that addressed these challenges by enabling its staff access to training and Workforce Engagement Management resources from anywhere. An integrated approach to consolidate their social media touchpoints enabled the delivery of a seamless omnichannel and personalized experience for customers and further differentiation in the market.

How does successful CX help maintain one’s branding? Can you give us some examples of how it can be used to further enrich the specific image the brand creates?

Excelling at customer experience is more than just happy customers. It builds reputation which is key to brand building. High-quality products and excellent customer experience are critical elements that set iconic brands apart.

[For example,] with a motto to refresh the world, inspire moments of happiness, and make a difference, Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Sales and Services leverages CX to help shape the overall experience and perception of the Coca-Cola brand every day. The brand improved its customer experience (CX) while saving on costs and IT effort with a move to the Genesys Cloud CX™ platform. Now with unprecedented innovation capabilities, the brand is ready for gamification and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions like Genesys Speech Analytics, voice bots, and Agent Assist, while constantly also looking into improving experience and productivity.

[Another example is] Xerox which partnered with Genesys to replace a disparate system of technologies with a single platform to create happier and more loyal customers around the world. Customer experience is the number one priority at Xerox and they take a very unique approach to the customer-led innovation process, which starts with the customer in mind and building the human interface design aspects for their product, solution, or, service.

When the consumer interactions with brands are easy and on their own consumer terms, brand building is effortless. When people don’t receive the assistance they desire, they simply go elsewhere. Bad experiences cause people to leave brands, but lack of personalization could be a far more common culprit. CX incorporates every element of the user interaction with a brand, which creates an emotional connection that puts the brand up front and center.

How can businesses and brands measure empathy in their CX and EX? What is a good way to tell if they are doing it successfully?

The shift in perception of CX being viewed as a core business competency is underway, however, CX measurement has not kept the same pace. Traditional metrics like customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS) offer a narrow view of experience. This leads to frustration and blind spots that signal to the customer you’re not paying attention, not to mention these metrics do not make use of valuable data that could deliver empathetic experiences.

To deep dive into the metrics conversation, we partnered with Harvard Business Review (HBR) Analytic Services to create a new global survey of 438 senior executives worldwide, “Beyond NPS: CX Measurement Reimagined.” One of the key revelations of the survey was the ability to better understand the quality of experiences earlier in the customer journey. This can be achieved with customer data management tools, predictive analytics, sentiment analysis, and customer success analytics software to measure CX and benchmark CX metrics against competitors. Correlating CX metrics with business outcomes is another area of measurement.

Implementing AI tools like speech-to-text analytics provides detailed insights about employee-customer interactions, creating targeted coaching opportunities for managers. Real-time sentiment analysis enables employees to course-correct at the moment. And predictive engagement senses a customer’s intent and directs them to the right content or person, which makes them feel heard and understood.

When it comes to Employee Experience (EX), tools have focused on operational efficiencies rather than employee experience. Businesses are realizing that a great employee experience is fundamental to delivering an exceptional customer experience. The emergence of workforce engagement management (WEM) systems helps employees thrive. They make it easier for managers to provide individualized coaching and team training on key skills. That brings managers and employees together to provide next-level customer service.

Are there any trends in customer experience that you foresee? What do these potential trends mean for brands in Asia?

[One of the] key CX trends for brands is the transformation of the contact center into a full engagement center. At a time when lines are blurring between sales, marketing, and service in delivering end-to-end enterprise experiences with the customer at the center, the data-driven contact center is at the core of customer engagement – and will be perceived as an engagement center.

[Another trend is that] AI will better orchestrate customer journeys. Just automating more services is not enough. Organizations will use AI to enhance the human aspects of an experience — sensing, intuition, closure — across self-service and agent-assisted interactions.

[Finally, there’s] rethinking CX metrics or the shift to using technology to gauge behaviors and underlying frustrations — whether from customers or employees, rather than measuring just efficiency.

The future of CX will revolve around individualized, personalized, authentic customer advocacy that allows businesses to grow and scale in a way that’s sustainable, profitable, and works for their customers. While the future of CX for an organization will depend on things like the industry, digital maturity, and competitive landscape, aligning the CX strategy towards a unified channel-agnostic experience, prioritizing the employee on the same level as the customer, and harnessing cloud-based technologies, are strategic differentiators which are key to winning in the marketplace.

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