CX Insight Magazine

January 2023

Delivering Empathy at Scale: Humanizing the Digital Experience

by Execs In The Know

Empathy arms self-service and agent experiences with a deeper understanding of the customer’s needs. The more companies can empathize with the details of a customer’s journey, the better experiences they can provide.

All interactions matter. Leading brands welcome customer contacts as opportunities to deepen relationships and strengthen emotional connections. With expectations growing, whether it’s a self-service or human-to-human interaction, companies need new ways to guide the customer journey.

Experience orchestration, a new term in the customer experience (CX) industry, describes the process of listening, understanding and taking action — from the customer’s point of view — when addressing customer needs.

The act of empathy — putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to gain insight — is one of the best ways to connect with customers. The importance of empathy is rarely disputed. It strengthens customer relationships, which leads to higher satisfaction levels and deeper loyalty. Showing empathy helps customers feel they’re being heard, that their needs are taken seriously and that the company is doing everything possible to help them.

The question becomes how best to deliver empathy? How can companies codify what their best agents do at scale?

Often companies invest heavily in training, monitoring, coaching and recognition to ensure agents deliver compassionate, human-to-human engagement. And, while agents can rely on soft skills to vicariously experience customers’ feelings, thoughts, and situations, can companies do more, especially with their interactions?

In their book Empathy In ActionTM, Tony Bates and Dr. Natalie Petouhoff reveal how important empathy is in the delivery of great customer experiences at scale. The book focuses on ways to use empathy-based business approaches to earn customer trust and loyalty.

Bates and Petouhoff identify the “four pillars of empathy as listen, understand and predict, act, and learn” — and these pillars are a rock-solid foundation to build upon as you work to humanize your brand’s digital customer experiences. Drawing inspiration from their work, this article explores ways your organization can use technology-driven interactions to make empathetic connections with your customers.

Experience the Experience

If empathy is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, why not start by doing just that? How much do you, your teams and your executives really understand about the experiences you offer customers?

One way to evaluate those experiences is to experience them for yourself. “When executives stand in the shoes of a customer and say, call the 1-800 number or interact with their chatbots, only then are they able to grasp the actual experience customers have,” said Dr. Petouhoff. “This is when the lights go on in ways that can’t be experienced in any other way.”

Design thinking is a great place to start. The first step — empathize — allows companies to set aside their own assumptions about the customer and gain real insight into customers. It draws on customers’ needs, feelings, contexts and mindsets to design experiences by mapping out the customer journey on all channels.

Once an experience is designed, companies can use an “eat your own dog food” or “dogfooding” approach. It’s a popular practice in the tech industry, where companies first test on themselves, using technology as customers would. It allows a company to figure out what works and what needs to be fixed. In addition, having a group of customer advocates who also test the experience ensures the company hasn’t lost the customer perspective in the end-to-end interaction.

You can think of experience testing as determining how the tool works, not if the tool works, which is part of functional testing. For example, as a newly developed self-service interaction is being designed, employees and customer advocates follow the exact steps a customer is expected to take. Testers pay special attention to answer a set of key questions, including but not limited to:

  • Does the tool deliver the desired customer experience?
  • Are the language and flow clear and easy to understand?
  • Is the experience intuitive, frictionless and easy?
  • Is there a way for the customer to switch interaction channels, if desired?
  • Does the context of the interaction remain intact when channels are switched?
  • How does the experience make the customer feel?
  • Does the experience deliver the desired outcome from the customer’s point of view?

Experience testing is also a great hands-on way for executives to competitively vet how the technology delivers customer experiences when they’re comparing technologies. It’s only when one actually uses the technology that gaps are revealed between expectations and reality. Executives can identify weaknesses in the interactions before buying technology or launching something new. That prevents buyer’s remorse and, ultimately, ensures a more satisfying customer experience.

Getting Personal

Another way to scale empathy is to personalize the experience. To CX leaders, personalization is about creating experiences that are tailored to a customer or groups of customers based on information the company knows about them in real time. To customers, it’s about positive experiences that make them feel special, heard and understood. Personalization can be the ultimate display of empathy. And it has a measurable impact on your business.

Consider These Key Stats


Seventy-one percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% get frustrated when they don’t.


Seventy-two percent expect the businesses they buy from to recognize them as individuals and know their interests.


Companies that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue from those activities than average players.

With those customer expectations and positive business impacts, CX personalization is an imperative. But personalizing specifically for each and every customer, at scale can be difficult unless you’re invested in experience orchestration.

What happens without experience orchestration? Self-service experiences end up in a dead end. That’s because they are governed by dumb bots. Even artificial intelligence (AI)-bot enablement doesn’t help. Why? Because the bots aren’t connected to the customer journey analytics — they don’t have the interaction context. The bot has to ask the customer who they are and what they want and then can only provide canned answers because it’s responding without real-time context.

And because often the customer doesn’t trust self-service to get what they need anymore, they use the more expensive agent channel. The money spent on self-service is often unknowingly wasted. And what happens when agents don’t have customer journey analytics? Experiences turn into long, painful interactions in which customers must repeat themselves and often get angry — taking their frustrations out on agents. That leads to constant agent stress and high attrition rates.

What’s different when companies use real-time, contextually relevant customer journey analytics in self-service and agent-assisted interactions? In this type of personalization, the customer is immediately identified. The bot or agent knows what the customer has been doing and what they need next — and then quickly and easily provides it.

Personalization helps to humanize digital and agent-assisted interactions and shows customers that the company values them as individuals. In turn, personalization can also positively impact operational metrics (e.g., cost per contact, FCR and customer satisfaction), as well as strategic markers (e.g., customer lifetime value and loyalty). How better to display empathy and show customers you know and understand their situation than by making the experience feel like it’s all about them?

Make the First Move

Companies that use the four empathy pillars to identify issues and proactively communicate with customers in digital channels are scaling empathy.

Service recovery is a great use case. Many customers have had the experience of being notified when an expected delivery was delayed. Customers accept and expect your proactive outreach as soon as possible. Brands using operational data to proactively identify upcoming issues and manage customer expectations aren’t only showing strong empathy for customers, but they’re also avoiding unnecessary contacts at the same time. This results in lower operational costs.

Transparency is part of an empathetic approach to service recovery. Companies that act fast, apologize, take ownership, solve the problem and offer a make-good solution often regain customer trust and loyalty. In fact, 85% of customers say a business that’s transparent makes them more likely to give it a second chance after a bad experience. In addition, following up after the recovery experience to ensure satisfaction is an excellent practice that shows the organization cares about the customer.

Check Yourself

Speaking of following up, a robust customer feedback program is a vital part of an empathetic company’s playbook. Deploying post-contact sentiment-based surveys helps measure performance and improve areas where customers don’t feel understood, heard or valued. Furthermore, hosting on-site customer visits and focus groups with the teams that develop and support customer experience can be eye-opening and can deepen empathy for both groups. The more you measure, the more you can learn and scale empathetic experiences that delight your customers.


Overview of Empathy in Action: How to Deliver Great Customer Experiences at Scale, an excellent resource for all CX leaders

Most leaders believe they provide great customer and employee experiences, yet multiple surveys reveal a sad truth: most customers and employees don’t agree. In this book, Genesys CEO Tony Bates and Dr. Natalie Petouhoff explore the reasons great customer and employee experiences are often lacking in business today. And they unveil a new approach for creating a customer- and employee-centric business model that yields better long-term results.

Using case studies, impactful stories and a fascinating new framework for creating customer- and employee-centric experiences, the authors demonstrate how leaders are disrupting industries by orchestrating the components of the exponential “Empathy in Action Business Flywheel.”

Learn how using empathy-based business criteria will transform customer and employee experiences, galvanize trust and loyalty, and drive exponentially better business results.


Get Started

Although it might sound counterintuitive, technology underpins empathetic self-service and agent-assisted experiences that build trust, increase satisfaction and boost loyalty. Creating ways for employees to put themselves in customers’ shoes during the design and development of the customer experience process is a great way to deepen the internal understanding of CX.

Personalization that accounts for and leverages customer context — and delivers proactive experiences using customer journey analytics — are also important ways to scale empathy. Finally, measuring satisfaction with these interactions is critical to understanding how well you’ve delivered on your customers’ expectations.

Whether the interaction is human-to-human or digital, your customers want to feel heard and valued every time. Great companies use this common thread and weave it into the fabric of every customer service interaction. “The world has been growing toward the desire for a more humanistic society and workplace. And with the pandemic, we’ve accelerated that need and expectations,” explained Dr. Petouhoff.

Now, more than ever, companies should focus on delivering empathy in every customer interaction, creating positive impact and memorable customer experiences. It’s a feel-good goal that pays off in short- and long-term business success.


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