How emotional intelligence is unlocking the power of customer insight

The events of the past 18 months have accelerated businesses’ digital transformation plans by several years, spurred on by sudden and rapid shifts in customer behavior.

Digital convenience is no longer a differentiator or a ‘nice-to-have’. Rather, an expectation in which the customer requires convenience above all else. As we enter a new and constantly evolving, digital-first economy, empathy is now the differentiator of customer experience and critical to business success.

As customers interact with businesses and brands more consistently via digital channels, delivering more personalized experiences that demonstrate a clear understanding of their wants and needs throughout their journey is crucial and requires deeper customer insights.

Yet, according to the Adobe 2021 Digital Trends report, only one in five companies have significant insight into their customers’ mindset or friction points in the customer journey.

As digital convenience becomes the norm, how can enterprise leaders gain a more insightful understanding of customer journeys and create more engaging customer experiences built on empathy?

I had the opportunity to sit down with Deputy CEO at Smart Eye (Formerly, Co-Founder & CEO of Affectiva) Dr Rana el Kaliouby to discuss how AI is helping to unlock greater customer insights to help brands create more informed and impactful experiences.

Here are her key insights for business leaders.

Empathy is key in the new era in experience

Affectiva develops artificial intelligence technology that analyzes human emotions based on facial expressions, vocal intonation and body language.

As Rana says, only 10 percent of how we connect and communicate is via words. The rest is non-verbal.

“Empathy sits at the core of how we communicate and connect with one another,” Rana says. “It influences how we build trust and loyalty and comradery, so it really is important in how we build customer experiences and this emotional connection with our users and consumers.”

AI is allowing for greater personalization at scale

At Adobe, we’ve been talking about personalization at scale for some time and how technology empowers enterprise leaders to create more engaging and intimate experiences.

“Especially over the past year with the pandemic, we’re seeing a rise of what I’m calling the empathy economy,” Rana says. “Organizations that are able to approach their key stakeholders – be it their employees, their customers, their investors, their partners – with empathy are going to generate a lot more economic growth and opportunities.”

“It’s easy to do that when you’re a small organization, it’s really hard to scale empathy.”

Rana says this is where technology like artificial emotional intelligence helps enterprises quantify the emotional resonance and reactions to garner more powerful insights that cut to the core of the customer experience.

Privacy must be at the core of everything

As consent-led marketing becomes the norm ahead of the demise of the third-party cookie, marketers need to put privacy and consent at the core of their data strategies.

Yet, according to our 2021 Digital Trends report, only one-in-two executives say that privacy and consent are key factors in their planning.

For Affectiva, which deals with uniquely personal data, Rana says privacy must be central to everything they do.

“We are sticklers for privacy so everything we do is on an opt-in basis,” she says.

The CMO and CIO relationship is more important than ever

“The marketers and the content creators and advertisers want these unique insights around the customer experience but you need the CIO and that organization to implement the data stack,” Rana says.

“I talk about democratizing access to AI within organizations – you really want the CIO’s organization to make this whole system accessible to anybody in the broader organization. It’s a really important partnership.”

As customer experience innovations connect the customer to more technology solutions, a true CMO/CIO partnership needs to be established where both sides are learning about each other’s domains – taking the time to understand and add value.

Ultimately, brands looking to succeed in the digital-first world need to be delivering rich, engaging, personalized experiences. Injecting empathy into your customer experience management will be the differentiator.