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Today, it takes a lot more than lightning fast response times to make customers happy.

Many brands now use machine learning to help their agents meet customers’ need for speedy responses. But, the human element is still a key differentiator. Too many robotic replies can still yield the same bad sentiment as plain old slow ones.

To make your customer care team’s automation effective rather than just efficient, agents need to show some empathy.

Here are three ways to make sure customers feel the love:

1. Know the limitations of omnichannel

Omnichannel support tools are powerful, but without enough structure, they can breed bad habits. Agents who can access all channels at once sometimes exhibit the same channel-hopping behavior as consumers. Their attention gets stretched thin. They provide swift responses, but not thoughtful ones.

When customer interactions begin to lack the personal touch customers crave, more customers churn.

The solution? A better process and better tools. Agents must be trained on acceptable and unacceptable responses, a social playbook which provides examples is a good starting point. Any omnichannel tool should feature automated safeguards and a way for managers to sample agents’ conversations to ensure quality also.

2. Look beyond first response times (FRT)

Agents are often measured primarily on quick replies and quick resolutions. But at what cost?

If your team’s success is measured too heavily on reducing response times, agents will prioritize speed over compassion. That will please some customers but it’s bound to leave others feeling dismissed.

Don’t let your agents’ desire to close tickets get in the way of treating customers right. Empower agents to gauge each interaction on its own merits so they can spend extra time with those who need it. Add tags to the CRM so agents can flag lengthy but necessary interactions and weigh them into FRT calculations.

Next, rebalance your definition of success to include long-term metrics like lifetime customer value (LTV). This allows your team to measure the customer’s lifetime worth against the value of a quickly-closed ticket. The goal is to make sure most customers walk away feeling good about the service they received and occasionally, this should take however long it takes.

3. Use simple, sincere language

Emotional connections are formed when people can relate to each other. But the stuffy language big brands typically use builds a barrier between agents and customers, especially when the answer is “No.”

Phrases like “Regrettably, we are unable to…” are distant and impersonal while “You’re right – we should be able to…” are active and self-aware. Customers don’t care about your agent’s regrets; they care about their ability to understand and empathize.

This is why many repeat requests (and requests to speak to a supervisor) stem from emotional disconnects between customers and support reps. Either the customer didn’t trust the agent’s answer or suspected they were cowering behind company policy.

To build trust and rapport with customers, train agents to recognize subtle cues and arm them with better language. Forbes recommends educating agents on how to mirror customer communication styles. Teams can also create customer personas and scripts with variable responses for the most common situations.

Automation can’t work without empathy

Customers may want speed but they also want connection and understanding. Digital care teams that can balance fast responses with effective ones typically end up delivering both.

To learn more about how to implement your digital care strategy, read The Definitive Guide to Social Customer Service.