Everyone has that one favorite restaurant. It’s special because they make you feel welcome. Perhaps the waiters greet you by name, or the owner remembers your favorite dish and takes the time to recommend a new offering they think you might like. When this is the kind of experience they offer, you are far more likely to return to that restaurant time and again, even if it is a little further out of your way or a little more expensive.

In today’s world, big brands have to provide this type of personalized experience in order to differentiate themselves from their competition, gain market share and keep the loyalty of their customers. And this is not just in face-to-face interactions: According to the 2020 CCW market study on Customer Experience Trends, Challenges & Innovations, 82% of customers are comfortable using digital channels, which means that this personalized experience has to extend to online interactions as well.

To grow in a global market, brands have to take the customers from a zone of indifference into a zone of affection and loyalty. For this, they need to create a customer experience that is powerful and memorable – something that consists of more than just a buy-and-sell transaction. According to Neilsen, 18% of consumers had stopped using a brand in the last 12 months because of the gap between marketing and experience, with 32% believing the gap is widening. Nielsen says that “this gap represents a fundamental empathy deficit among brands who are out of touch with what it feels like to use the brand.”
However, in the context of brand experience, it is important to remember that empathy is not a point in time – “oh, I know how you feel” – but rather an approach that is built layer by layer.

First, there is cognitive empathy. This is demonstrating that you know what the customer wants. Then comes emotional empathy, which is conveying to the customer that you understand how they feel. Finally, there is compassionate empathy, which is the ability to act and help.

How can we use technology to demonstrate and utilize a profoundly human emotion? This requires going beyond conversational AI, context awareness and personalization. It requires the next level of innovation: Humanized AI, or Soul Machines’ Human OS.

Soul Machines has been working at humanizing AI since 2016 and its Digital PeopleTM powered by Human OSTM create a safe, engaging, scalable, and powerful face-to-face interaction and brand experience. Soul Machines’ Human OS features a patented Digital Brain that drives Autonomous Animation. It allows Digital People to be fully autonomous and authentic in their responses. They can hear, see, feel, understand, and relate to customers autonomously in real-time, and in multiple languages.

Cognitive empathy: improving face-to-face interactions

Companies have the opportunity to engage with customers across a much broader set of channels than ever before. This means more reasons to give a voice and face to their brand. Digital People allow a company to create a workforce of brand ambassadors appealing to their diverse audiences and available 24/7 to provide instant answers, send individualized content, or suggest the next steps. Their gaze and facial expressions help connect with the customer, making them feel understood, and valued.

NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE created Ruth, a Digital Person, to respond to customer call requests for cookie recipes, hints, and tips. Ruth is knowledgeable about diet restrictions and taste preferences as regards cookies. She can also give step-by-step instructions on how to bake them while making the experience entertaining for family and friends.

Emotional empathy: elevating the customer experience

Customer satisfaction is not enough and in a competitive landscape, the brands that will win are the ones that can establish an emotional connection with their customers in addition to identifying their intents and needs.

Digital People allow companies to demonstrate that they understand what their customer feels. Unlike conversational AI tools which rely on content, punctuation, and capitalization, Digital People capture the tone of voice, facial expression, and body language of the customer. They integrate these inputs and the context of the conversation to respond autonomously with emotional expressions.

For example, a Digital Person will never show judgment and impatience – ideal for stressful customer service situations such as returns and claims, and as we know an apologetic face and tone can calm an angry or anxious customer and ensure an overall positive experience. This lack of judgment combined with the ability to express understanding is also useful in making customers comfortable and more willing to disclose sensitive and personal information, which can be critical to providing a diagnosis, for example.

A multinational CPG Company has created a Digital Skincare Consultant and Brand Ambassador relatable to young women so they feel comfortable discussing their skin concerns and problems and ask for advices. This Digital Ambassador has increased website conversions by a factor of 4.6X.

A multinational CPG Company has created a Digital Skincare Consultant and Brand Ambassador relatable to young women so they feel comfortable discussing their skin concerns and problems and ask for advices. This Digital Ambassador has increased website conversions by a factor of 4.6X.

Compassionate empathy: helping emotion-based communities

Compassionate empathy combines cognitive and emotional empathy with the intention to improve the well-being of the person. The benefits of compassionate empathy cannot be overstated, especially in service industries. In health care, for example, it has been shown that compassionate empathy can reduce the length of hospital stays, make patients’ recovery faster and prevent readmission. In education, it can help students thrive throughout their academic journey, increase their success rates, reduce drop-outs, and raise awareness of an institution.

Digital People can deliver compassion in multiple ways, from an attentive presence to personal counseling with suggestions and recommendations. For example, they can verify that a patient is attentive and able to comprehend his discharge information after surgery or offer to review them at a later time. If a student is struggling to understand a new concept, his Digital Tutor can suggest taking a break or listening to a different explanation. Digital People are ideal candidates to provide long-term and trusted connections to emotional communities such as those living with addiction, mental illness, or cognitive disabilities, or isolated elderly people. They can build a knowledge of the customer, have a holistic view of a situation and respond for the best interest of the customer.

A worldwide non-profit organization has chosen a Digital person, to lead a campaign against the effects of tobacco across 29 countries in five different languages including engaging youth, training health workers, and supporting nicotine replacement therapies. Her compassionate empathy helps customers decide to quit, commit to a cessation program, boost their self-confidence and self-control.

Conclusion

Digital People can provide a personalized and memorable customer experience with levels of empathy from cognitive to emotional and compassionate. This is a major differentiator for brands to stay ahead of their competition and demonstrate their leadership and commitment to customer experience and technical innovation. And the benefits extend to employees as well: by allocating repetitive tasks to Digital People, employees are freed to take on more challenging and more rewarding activities, leading to improved employee retention and satisfaction.