Faking empathy’ now a huge risk for UK companies


A new study from Genesys, a global cloud leader in customer experience orchestration, highlights the scale of the challenge UK companies now face when it comes to engaging with customers via digital means. With the increased rate at which organisations are using digital platforms to interact with people since the pandemic first struck, a third (32 percent) of UK consumers now state customer service representatives’ concerns sound ‘fake’. The study also concludes 31 percent of UK consumers believe customer service quality has worsened since Britain’s first lockdown, a perspective influenced no doubt by huge numbers of staff being furloughed against a backdrop of increased customer interaction, leading to unsatisfactory experiences with brands in many cases.

With companies set to emerge from current restrictions in only a matter of weeks, the battle to build trust and loyalty requires a radical rethink of the way technology can be used to enhance customer experiences today. With over two thirds (68 percent) of Britons now stating a brand is only as good as its customer service, businesses must act quickly to scale empathetic experiences that build both a foundation of goodwill and long-lasting emotional bonds with the communities they serve via digital means.

Findings from the study also show that despite voice remaining the most frequent channel for interacting with customer representatives’ (used by 64 percent of UK consumers), live webchat is now used by nearly half of Britons (46 percent), and chatbots by over one in four (28 percent).

When it comes to what it takes to make a customer experience go from mediocre to phenomenal today:

  • A third (34 percent) of respondents believe it’s when a business remembers you and anticipates why you are contacting them

  • A fifth (22 percent) state it’s when a member of the staff makes it clear they’re empathetic to what really matters to you


With over one in four (27 percent) UK consumers stating customer service representatives aren’t ‘personable’, it’s clear more can be done to enhance this important aspect of engagement in companies. With the human connection still so crucial to customer success, technologies which help brands accumulate and organise information across sales, marketing and service have become vital for enabling employees to listen, predict, learn and act with empathy when engaging with customers across a range of channels.

“While brands are always looking to improve how they interact with customers, they need to look beyond efficient resolution of problems as the primary measure of effectiveness,” comments Helen Briggs, Senior Vice President and General Manager, EMEA at Genesys. “When consumers were asked to rank important aspects of customer service in our study, empathy trumped speed. People want to feel heard and know that their issues are being taken care of – they don’t simply want to be read a script. Trust and loyalty are essential for building and maintaining successful businesses today, and while it may sound obvious, helping staff show empathy now plays a critical role in that process.”

“The past year has shown that providing empathic customer experiences is more important than ever before,” says Claire Carroll, head of sales and service at Co-Op Group. “Consumers needed to hear a caring voice at the end of the phone during the height of the pandemic. Putting empathy at the core of our service, we were able to treat customers as individuals and listen to their exact needs, especially when dealing with questions relating to sensitive issues such as bereavement.”

Briggs concludes, “Empathy can only be delivered effectively when companies combine the right people with the right technology, powered by artificial intelligence. When orchestrated cohesively across every channel, businesses have the power to really differentiate themselves, driving deeper connections with customers and becoming loyalty leaders in our increasingly digital economy.”

The Connected Customer Experience report from Genesys examined how the COVID-19 pandemic affected people’s health, happiness and social and professional interactions. A copy of the complete findings for the UK can be found here.