Can AI help call center agents show more empathy?


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For some businesses, customer experience has become more of a buzzword than an actionable value. Business leaders recognize its importance, but embodying this value throughout the organization proves difficult. The C-suite is committed to the concept of customer experience, but what about call center agents, the individuals on the front lines?

Call center agents routinely navigate hectic work environments, impatient customers, and complex training, making it difficult to show sufficient empathy on calls. But call center interactions carry far too much weight for business leaders to treat them as an afterthought. It’s critical to empower call center agents with the skills and resources they need to connect with customers in a meaningful way.

One solution? To lighten the load on call center agents and promote more empathetic customer service, businesses need to reorient the way they train agents using tailored, AI-assisted instruction.

The cost of a poor customer service interaction

When attempting to resolve a problem through a customer service hotline, a consumer might find themselves waiting on hold for extended periods, leaving voicemails, or being transferred multiple times before finally connecting with the appropriate person.

It’s a frustrating experience. But what happens next will determine whether they continue to do business with your organization.

Too often, this story has an unhappy ending for both the customer and the business when the agent fails to solve the problem in a timely manner or express empathy for the caller’s frustration. For 54% of consumers, just one bad experience with a brand is enough to stop using their product or service. And who can blame them, since a call center interaction is often the first experience a customer has with a brand representative.

Clearly, call center interactions have tremendous business implications. However, many business leaders don’t view them as a priority, and call center agents are set up for failure. In addition to high-stress work environments, agents are often forced to spend time tracking down answers and product information on calls rather than expressing empathy about the caller’s concerns.

Managers can offer only so much assistance to their agents. In many cases, they lack the bandwidth to train agents to handle difficult customer situations or listen to call recordings to identify teachable moments.

For many agents, it’s trial by fire. They repeatedly struggle in complex customer-facing situations before eventually improving.

In today’s business environment, your organization cannot afford the luxury of an extended learning curve. To provide more empathetic service and drive customer loyalty, you have to make call center agents a priority.

Using AI to rethink call center training

To improve call center empathy, it’s important to first address the factors that make empathy more difficult than it has to be. That starts with simplifying calls for agents.

Imagine if instead of agents spending time tracking down complex product information on a call, the relevant information was presented to them the moment they needed it. With the help of AI, this is becoming a reality.

With real-time recommendations and guidance, agents can reclaim valuable mental space so they can focus on the interaction itself. How is the customer feeling? Am I making a strong personal connection with the consumer? Are they growing impatient? The ability to devote more attention to these questions helps agents deliver more empathetic service.

With information searches less of a concern, managers gain more freedom to rethink how they train their employees. Instead of requiring managers to pour over hours of call transcripts, AI can uncover key moments in calls that may warrant review. Maybe an agent didn’t pick up on a customer’s frustrated tone or apologize for a long hold time. With this approach, managers can focus on identifying new ways to coach instead of spending time finding coachable moments.

From a business perspective, AI offers more accurate and actionable metrics. For example, sentiment analysis can measure customer emotions, tone, and overall sentiment toward your brand instead of relying on post-interaction surveys, which only capture a small fraction of interactions. AI can also reduce the burden for QA teams by identifying key moments in a call and determining whether an agent has properly adhered to a call script. In addition, AI can also provide an overall call score to identify successes and areas where the rep may need more coaching.

With these metrics, you can achieve greater visibility into call center operations. You can see, definitively, whether agent empathy is driving business value or if a lack of empathy is hurting customer loyalty.

Prioritizing empathy in call center interactions

Empathy is an easy value to champion in call centers, but a difficult value to live by. Call center agents must deal with myriad factors in their roles that complicate the empathetic interactions with customers. But since these agents play such a pivotal role in customer satisfaction, you need to go the extra mile to give them the tools they need to succeed.

That’s what makes AI so vital. AI-assisted call center operations can redefine how agents handle calls and how managers train agents for success. By prioritizing AI, you can open the door to greater levels of empathy and offer your customers a higher quality of service.

Michelle Tilton
Michelle serves as Vice President of Marketing for Gryphon, focused on demand gen, operations, brand, content, and thought leadership. Her marketing insight comes from 20 years of experience including B2B technology, agency, data, and media marketing expertise. Previously, she served as Vice President of Marketing for Infutor Data Solutions (Now Verisk) and Director of Corporate Marketing and Communications for Source Interlink Companies (now part of TEN, The Enthusiast Network). She holds Communications and Psychology degrees from American International College.


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