Why Pegasystems wants to turn customer engagement into customer empathy

Customers don’t believe businesses have their best interests at heart. At last week’s Pegaworld event in Las Vegas, Paul Snell found out how the martech vendor plans to change this

For a city that brands itself ‘the entertainment capital of the world’, you might think Las Vegas would be all about offering its visitors a great customer experience. But scratch away at the surface and its approach is less customer-centric than it first appears.

Labyrinthine hotels and casinos with no exit signs constructed to bewilder and discourage you from going outside. Blinking lights and plinking sounds generated by the slot machines and one-armed bandits designed to overstimulate the senses. Plus, if they don’t clean you out at the gaming tables, they’ll take what’s left of your money in the ruinously-expensive bars and restaurants. Everything is designed to part the customer with their cash in the most effective way possible. Not that there’s anything wrong with this – the casinos’ primary purpose is to make money. Just don’t expect any empathy.  

The Las Vegas gambling temples may be an extreme example of how businesses sacrifice empathy for the sake of extracting maximum value from their customers (or, to put it more crudely, sell them more stuff) whether it’s in their best interests or not. However, many organisations suffer a similar lack of empathy with their own clients and customers. A survey published last week by Pegasystems revealed almost two-thirds of customers don’t believe organisations act in their best interests, even though there is an expectation for them to do what is ‘morally right’. 

Alan Trefler, CEO and founder, Pegasystems

As Alan Trefler (pictured above), founder and CEO of the customer engagement tech business explained at the firm’s annual event in ‘Sin City’ last week: “All companies say it’s about the customer – that they want to organise, galavanise and energise themselves to do an awesome job around customer engagement. That sounds terrific when the CEO says it, but then reality sets in and companies actually end up organising around channels.”

Alan says it is ‘requirements’ of a project or piece of tech that get in the way, creating this barrier between the customer and business. “Requirements need to be banished. Instead we need empathy, we need to be able to put ourselves at the heart of the matter, and understand the unarticulated evolving needs of the customer and business.”

"Requirements need to be banished. Instead we need empathy"

Alan Trefler, founder, Pegasystems

How businesses can add empathy to customer engagement

Pegasystems believes it has come up with a way for companies to get better at this, through the development of a new tool for its platform, the Customer Empathy Advisor. Scheduled to launch towards the end of the year, it aims to allow companies to control and experiment with the level of empathy in their customer engagement strategy, including messaging and positioning.

Pega’s Next Best Action tool uses analytics, data and algorithms to propose more relevant actions for individual customers. The Empathy Advisor takes this further using machine learning to look at six different aspects, including how relevant, suitable, and valuable the action is, and what is the customer’s context, mood and intent.

This creates simple sliders (see the screenshot below) that businesses can apply. Pushing the slider to a warmer empathy setting will result in more empathetic offers to customers. A cooler setting will prioritise business objectives such as maximising upsell.

Pegasystems Customer Empathy Advisor screenshot

“We’re trying to create a more considerate, warmer, more caring version of customer engagement.” Says Pegasystems’ VP customer decisioning and analytics, Rob Walker (pictured below). “Maximising profit at every opportunity at any cost is almost certainly unempathetic. So is spamming people who are not interested in what you have to say. If you ignore what’s said, insist on bringing up irrelevant topics, and only care what is important to you in a human-to-human conversation, you’d lose the relationship.”

The martech business is keen to point out the AI is making no judgement on the offer being presented itself, merely assessing the circumstances when the offer is being made to the customer.

Rob Walker, VP decisioning and analytics, Pegasystems

"Maximising profit at every opportunity at any cost is almost certainly unempathetic"

Rob Walker, VP decisioning and analytics, Pegasystems

Empathy in B2B marketing

At Pegaworld, the examples given for the Empathy Advisor were from the B2C world – for example more empathetic mortgage offers or telephone billing resolution. But the business believes the concept of empathy is just as important in B2B.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference CMO Tom Libretto (pictured below) told me: “The concepts of empathy – not being irrelevant, not being annoying or overbearing with marketing or sales messaging – those apply independent of business model. The human element in a large enterprise software sale is profound – people bet their careers on a tech vendor, therefore there’s a much more meaningful relationship that needs to be created between buyer and seller.”

Tom Libretto, CMO, Pegasystems

Libretto has been practising what the company preaches when it comes to integrating customer engagement data into its own marketing activity.

Three years ago, his function was a traditional campaign-orientated, batch and blast marketing set up, not informed by customer interaction with sales or customer service. The team implemented the Pega Marketing platform with customer decision hub, alongside the existing Pega Sales Automation and Pega Customer Service applications. The data inputs and interaction channels were unified, allowing the team to start running models on its segmented-based campaigns to see what happened.

“First, we had to get better at integrating and scoring our data. We got very sophisticated in terms of attributing lots of different interactions to individuals we were trying to market and sell to, and built a robust scoring model against those interaction types. With that level of data attribution, when we loaded that large dataset into the Customer Decision Hub, the AI was able to make very good decisions based on that data.”

As a result, having sent around 350 million marketing emails in 2017, last year the company was able to send a tenth of that volume, while increasing engagement.

“We’ve almost completely shut off, on a comparative basis, all of our emails and we’re getting a higher level of absolute pega.com attributed conversions – and that’s all because the Decision Hub is making better decisions every day based on individual interest profiles based on all the sales interactions they have with us.” 

Tom says they didn’t know whether the volume of interactions and the data they would provide would be high enough, which would be a concern for any B2B marketer, but it’s turned out to work very successfully for them.

"The human element in a large enterprise software sale is profound – people bet their careers on a tech vendor"

Tom Libretto, CMO, Pegasystems

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