There’s a good reason why average handle time (AHT) is a top KPI for contact centers: shorter call times show respect for the customer’s time and give agents more bandwidth for additional calls.
But for many customers, this metric doesn’t make or break their experience. What matters more: working with an agent who can empathize with their situation. Compared with low wait times, agent empathy has nearly double the impact on customer satisfaction.
The problem, though, is that traditional support tools don’t make it easy for agents to demonstrate empathy. It’s hard for agents to craft a caring message over live chat. Or prove how well they understand a customer’s problem on an audio call. The result is an experience that leaves 36 percent of customers unhappy with the level of empathy displayed.
It’s time for leaders to make empathy a KPI – and equip agents with the right digital tools to deliver the compassion customers demand. The key: a tech-forward, video-first support model that creates what I call “visual empathy.” It’s a unique kind of connection that can transform the entire support experience.
Here, I’ll explain what visual empathy is and how it can benefit customers and the bottom line.
How Video Connections Create Visual Empathy
In a sentence, agents establish visual empathy when they can actually see a customer’s problem firsthand.
When it comes to customer support, this visual access relies on video-first support technology that can connect customers to agents in seconds. And an app-free solution (e.g., outfitting products with a QR code that customers can scan to reach a video call platform) can make that process as seamless as possible.
For agents, establishing visual empathy is a crucial step toward fully understanding a customer’s situation – along with any emotions (like anxiety, frustration, or annoyance) that they’re experiencing.
Picture, for instance, a customer calling in about a problem with their TV display. They can use their device camera to show an agent exactly what they’re seeing, from screen flickers to fuzzy pixels. The agent can also see the customer’s facial expressions – which can help agents gauge how to phrase a question or when to offer reassurance.
Traditional support tools don’t allow for this depth of understanding. But with video connections, agents can create a more empathetic customer experience where everyone benefits. More on those effects in the next couple of sections.
Visual Empathy Helps Solve Problems the First Time
Agents spend a lot of their call time trying to contextualize a customer’s concern, explain troubleshooting steps, and identify the source of the issue at hand. That’s a clunky process, though, over audio calls or live chat.
Without eyes on the problem, an agent might need to ask basic questions about a customer’s device (like the model or serial number) or confirm that the customer understands each troubleshooting step (e.g., which menu item to click or which cord connection to reset). And that’s not to mention any backtracking if the customer misunderstands a question or instruction.
This kind of process can drag out call times. And when metrics like AHT are a top priority, agents may opt to dispatch an in-person technician so they can move on to the next caller – even though the customer’s issue still isn’t resolved.
Here’s where visual empathy comes in. With video-first connections, agents can see things from the customer’s perspective. Then, they can more quickly understand issues and offer guidance. The result is a smoother, higher-quality call experience that ensures problems get solved the first time.
Over video, for instance, an agent can ask a customer to show them their serial number or HDMI connection. The agent can see it in seconds – and use optical character recognition to quickly enter the number into their system.
If the agent needs to walk a customer through troubleshooting, they can use augmented reality features to circle areas of interest on their video-enabled device. The markings will show up on the customer’s display, making it easy for them to know exactly where to find a hidden button or port.
The bottom line? Video-based problem solving makes sure agents and customers stay aligned at every stage of the support process – key to resolving issues on the first call.
Visual Empathy Keeps Customers Around
I noted earlier that agent empathy is a top driver of customer satisfaction. On the other side of the coin, though: a lack of empathy can drive customers away. Over 50 percent of customers will switch to a competitor after a single negative support experience. And in an uncertain economy, that’s one of the last things businesses need.
A video-first support model, though, makes it easier to establish empathy from the start of every interaction. One of the biggest reasons? Video puts a face to the human on the other side. And alongside helping agents and customers see the problem at hand, video lets both parties see each other as real people. That’s harder to accomplish with audio- and chat-based support models.
This face-to-face contact has a split-second effect. But it’s enough to give customers the human connection they overwhelmingly value in technical support. The business benefits: more empathy, happier customers, and rock-solid retention rates.
Use Visual Empathy to Boost the Quality of Every Call
There’s a time and place for certain call center technology.
Customers may be satisfied with using AI-powered chatbots, for instance, to answer basic troubleshooting questions.
But when customers need live support, they want an empathetic and efficient experience. And traditional support tools are failing to create the experience customers demand.
Agents need technology that can help them handle each call with empathy. And video is the gateway.
In the long run, a support model rooted in visual empathy will boost the quality of every interaction. That’s key for maintaining a top-notch customer experience.
What I recommend: when it comes to customer support, let empathy guide everything from the digital tools you choose to the way you train employees. With an empathy-driven support model, you can keep your business competitive – and deliver a experience that customers remember.
Rama Sreenivasan is co-founder and CEO of Blitzz, a live, remote video support and inspection platform. Sreenivasan has led the company through its initial inception, launch, and subsequent growth to several million video support minutes per month. Major customers include BMW, Sealy, FedEx, and Rogers Telecommunications.
Before founding Blitzz in 2017, Rama spent several years working as a scientist and educator. His biggest joy comes from helping others solve their problems, and he is passionate about finding effective ways to disseminate knowledge. Sreenivasan has a PhD and MS in chemical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park. He also did his postdoctoral research at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.