Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Modernizing customer onboarding with video experiences

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Video has always been a tool brands want to leverage to drive a differentiated customer experience (CX). It’s easy to digest, entertaining and engaging. It’s widely accessible via the internet and a slew of personal mobile devices. It can tell a story like no other medium, encompassing verbal and visual communication.

To date, however, all of that potential remains largely untapped.

Brands create YouTube channels with hundreds or even thousands of videos, but consumers largely ignore them. Video content within a brand’s owned channels–on a website, sent via email, behind authenticated portals, available in mobile apps–repeatedly deliver very low engagement rates. And in a constantly changing world, the high production cost isn’t worth the short lifespan as videos quickly become obsolete.

At the same time, the need for video has never been more acute for the simple reason that consumers clearly prefer it. When you need to know how to do something, do you read the user manual or hit YouTube?

Make behavior changes early

Transforming CX demands a new generation of video that leads, elevates and strengthens the consumer’s digital experience. Known as video-powered experience (VX), it has earned its own spot as a subset of CX because it evokes empathy and emotional intelligence, simplifies messages for easy consumption, and effectively meets the needs of customers on an individual level.

Forrester’s 2020 playbook preaches that companies must focus on ease, effectiveness and emotion in order to improve digital CX and drive customer loyalty. Customers want helpful information fast and with minimal effort; they can’t be bothered with generic content; and it must be brought to life in a compelling way.

As such, brands can now, finally, realize the full potential of video to improve digital CX. VX is leveraged by leading brands for nearly all consumer engagement purposes–customer acquisition, bill explanation, digital adoption, product and service education, etc.–but the most common application is within customer welcome and onboarding experiences.

Why? Because you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And, perhaps even more importantly, because creating a behavior when the consumer is more apt to do so is much easier than changing an established behavior at a later time.

Think of it this way: If for a year or two, a customer relies on your brick and mortar branch, or uses your website, it will be difficult to convince them to use that new app in which you’ve invested. The hoped for streamlining of processes? The expanded marketing potential? Those targeted sales gains? All would be lost because habits are tough to change once a person is used to doing something a certain way.

The chance to establish the right digital behaviors from the start is not to be overlooked. That’s why, especially in this current socially-distant, work-from-home age, we’re seeing major brands applying VX to seize opportunity, close engagement gaps and cement relationships more effectively than ever before.

Empathy and emotional intelligence

We’ve seen two major changes in customer onboarding lately. The first major change is that COVID-19 makes it imperative for brands to communicate with empathy and emotional intelligence. Those companies that charge ahead with a business as usual approach come off as out of touch. But how do you do this with a static, linear video? Redo the entire video asset? And then redo it again once we return to some normalcy? Companies that apply empathy and emotional intelligence to their digital experiences acknowledge these are unprecedented times, and that they’re grateful the customer has chosen them, showing understanding and appreciation, the hallmarks of a healthy relationship.

One customer of ours that handled this extremely well in responding to COVID-19 is Kaiser Permanente. The healthcare provider launched an onboarding VX in early 2020, then within a few weeks of the pandemic starting, the company expressed a desire to alter the opening video scene to address an unprecedented situation and do so with a tone of sincere empathy. This didn’t entail a dramatic overhaul, just a quick content and messaging pivot in order to acknowledge and respond to the needs of members.

The second major change is that customers previously reluctant to dip their toes in the digital waters are now jumping in. Some of this behavior shift was forced in that the consumer had no other option than digital. As consumers started to interact with brands remotely—from depositing checks via mobile app to buying groceries online—they learned there are some benefits of doing so.

However, if you can’t show customers how to use your tools and how they make it easy to work with you, they’ll go elsewhere. The right VX brings your digital tools to life and much more effectively teaches them how to best take advantage of those tools. We’re seeing a number of brands rapidly increase their investment in this area—from Bank of America to American Express to Verizon to UnitedHealthcare and many others.

Keep it simple

The pandemic is impacting industries in different ways. For customers of ours in the telecommunications space, like Charter and Comcast, there are new physical limitations to the start of the onboarding process: installation. For example, in some areas of the country, the technician is not allowed to enter the home, and customers everywhere require a contact-less installation even if a technician is allowed to enter the home. As a result, self-install and digital troubleshooting have become the new norms out of necessity.

Charter knew that expectations for customers to watch a 15-minute video on the entire setup were unrealistic and likely to result in frustration when, for example, the customer only needed help on how to program the remote control. So, Charter created a better digital experience by breaking up all of the self-install topics into smaller, issue-specific video chapters. Whatever the customer was struggling with—from programming the remote to connecting a router—rather than watch a long-form video and wait for the topic to appear, they simply select the most relevant topic in the interactive VX and tackle the matters at hand simply and quickly.

By reducing complexity and making the process simple, Charter is realizing a dramatic reduction in cancellations, truck rolls and inbound call volume. And their customers couldn’t be happier with the video-powered digital experience.

Response and reputation

The last area of customer onboarding where companies made adjustments is focused on recommendations and promotional offers. The last thing any brand wants to do is come across as tone deaf in this area. For example, during a pandemic, you don’t want to be the credit card provider suggesting a new card member take advantage of benefits tied to international air travel.

One of the top four U.S. airlines was weeks away from launching a new onboarding program for its loyalty members when the pandemic started. Before COVID-19, they might encourage a new loyalty member to strive to reach Gold Status within 30 days or introduce their airport lounges by featuring footage of in-person interactions. Obviously, this type of content would be tone deaf when members are focused mostly on whether flying is safe and what it looks like.

Video content showing what loyalty members can expect, how to prepare and what the airline is doing to make travel safe, is what resonates right now. Thus, we partnered with this customer to adjust their scenes and messages accordingly such that they respond to what their travelers are most asking about while maintaining a strong reputation.

The right VX approach helps brands transform moments of consumer frustration, confusion and indecision into active engagement and positive outcomes. There is no better time in the customer journey to leverage VX than at the very beginning.

I hope the ideas and examples above help you think about a new and exciting approach to welcome and onboard your customers. Using the full potential of video (finally), these experiences will help you excite, engage and inspire customers to instill the behaviors that’ll make life easier for them and more beneficial for your company.

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