Analytics Part 2: Employee empathy
Using data to do great things
“Research shows that empathic workplaces tend to enjoy stronger collaboration, less stress, and greater morale, and their employees bounce back more quickly from difficult moments” 
Previously, Part One of this series on analytics discussed how the contact centre’s role as a source of first-party data has guided the contact centre’s evolution from isolated customer service function to strategic partner in the wider business. This second part of the series takes a look at employee empathy and how text analytics can help the contact centre understand the role empathy plays in the customer experience.
Good feelings, good results
“We judge an experience by its most intense point and its end, as opposed to the total sum or average of every moment of the experience. So tap into empathy, end on a high and make people feel great about using your service.”
The quote above describes what is known in behavioral psychology as the peak-end rule. In customer service, one way that the peak-end of an interaction is measured is by asking the customer immediately after the interaction to complete a survey. And one of the questions that the surveys often include is a variation of: “How well did the agent understand your problem?” In the contact centre, the agent’s competency in understanding the customer’s needs is a fundamental part of getting the customer experience (“CX”) right. That competency is what is known as employee empathy (“EE”). 
“Empathy relates to the gaining of particular insight into the experience of others, while distinguishing it as another person’s experience instead of one’s own. For better service quality, it is crucial for employees to recognize and deal with customer needs.” 
The opinion that employee empathy is crucial to driving quality in service is now widespread. You can see this in the increasing number of research studies into EE, the emergence of contact centre training courses in EE, and articles about it published in influential forums like the Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg. , , , . To take one example, a 2020 research article published in Cogent Business & Management (a Taylor & Francis journal) concludes that EE is a powerful tool to use in the effort to gain long-term customer relationships:
“EE is central for those service brands that want to leverage their investments in CS and loyalty outcomes” 
Consequently, it’s fair to forecast employee empathy becoming a significant key performance indicator for contact centres.
Beyond the bottom line
But measuring employee empathy cannot just be a means to an end: that would be disingenuous. Instead, employee empathy has to be considered holistically. This means looking at how to improve the employee experience as much as the customer’s.
“The human connections we want to build in our coaching and customer interactions rely on building agreement and assuming positive intent. These are in direct contrast to finger-pointing, point-deducting, and highlighting flaws.” 
For the contact centre, implementing a coaching program on empathy is the most effective way to see results. If integrated into employee experience effectively, employee empathy programs should contribute to shaping an open, positive culture that drives good results nearly by itself.
“Through coaching relationships, we have the chance to create a culture of empathy, in which employees experience empathy, enjoy the positive effects, and then use it in their customer interactions.” 
These are personal – human – benefits to be realized, but what of the technology that measures employee empathy and drives those benefits? That technology is contact analytics, and it’s been evolving. Let’s take a look at how it can be used to measure employee empathy.
Taking the measure of sentiment
Contact analytics is the term applied to the study of data that’s acquired from customer contact, such as Voice of the Customer surveys, employee feedback (as seen in Voice of the Agent surveys, for example), complaints, and mystery shopping. The interactions are captured in (or captured first and then transcribed into) text formats, which opens them up to data analysis.
The main technique used in the measurement of employee empathy is sentiment analysis; it’s a method to extract meaning and derive valuable insight from structured and unstructured text data, such as emails, chat transcriptions, or surveys. The challenge for the contact centre is to analyze employee empathy across those customer journeys that take place through multiple channels.
What can help the contact centre to gain a holistic understanding of their employee and customer experience is customer engagement software that offers omni-channel capability, capturing interactions between agents and customers across every channel the business uses. With this kind of software, the business can take control of how it measures employee experience, and of its employee development program, to drive improvements in employee experience.
- Jamil Zaki, Making Empathy Central to Your Company Culture, May 30 2019, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2019/05/making-empathy-central-to-your-company-culture.
- D. Kahneman, The Peak-end Rule, Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology, 1999, via https://www.coglode.com/nuggets/peak-end-rule.
- Waseem Bahadur, Saira Aziz and Salman Zulfiqar | Len Tiu Wright (Reviewing editor) (2018) Effect of employee empathy on customer satisfaction and loyalty during employee–customer interactions: The mediating role of customer affective commitment and perceived service quality, Cogent Business & Management, 5:1, DOI: 1080/23311975.2018.1491780.
- Webinar: How customer empathy delivers in the contact centre, Mar 18 2021, Call Centre Management Association, available at: https://www.ccma.org.uk/members/events/how-customer-empathy-delivers-in-the-contact-centre.
- Phil Brett, How do you teach empathy? Apr 29, 2021 https://www.cmswire.com/customer-experience/how-do-you-teach-empathy/.
- Rebecca Gibson, How to Empathically Coach Empathy for Customers, August 23 2021, Gibson Learning and Performance, https://www.icmi.com/resources/2021/empathic-coaching-contact-center.
- The UK Customer Experience Decision-maker’s Guide 2021-22, ContactBabel, available at: www.contactbabel.com.