Commentary

Empathy From A Bot?

  • by November 22, 2017

Want to help patients? Start by walking in their shoes and trying to understand their health journey. Empathy is key to everything. As our world continues to advance technologically and bots take over, one has to question if they really have the potential to show emotion and project empathy. Bots are left-brain processors. They’re learning engines that assimilate rational information and do it fairly easily as they process conversations. And the responses to these conversations drive certain calibrated answers. Can chatbots learn to feel someone’s pain? 

Is there such a thing as an algorithm with empathy? 

Maybe not at the present time, but I’m guessing that the future is in “empathy tech.” As we think about the bot and the types of conversations around health, one has to challenge the bots to get into the skin of the customer and offer value beyond transactions.

Retail understands the bot service model. 

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Retail has a customer service model that has the chatbot front and center at the start of the conversation. However, they recognize that the lack of empathy from the bot forces a different model to ensure that they are building a successful relationship all through the customer journey. As a conversation is happening with the bot, there’s a point in time in the discussion where the customer needs a more nuanced understanding; at this juncture, retail recognizes the need to quickly intervene with a live agent, so that customers feel understood. 

What are the implications with bots when it comes to a patient’s health?

There’s a definite parallel to the retail sector: provide a value-added service to your customer. In the case of healthcare, the customers are the patient and caregiver, so ensure that your brand is sponsoring the conversation. Offer a new kind of intuitive conversation, one that takes patient-friendly to the next level. As AI and natural language processing (NLP) continue to evolve, we will see real potential for true personalized conversation around health. 

The potential for bots to help patients feel understood and to convey an emotional response could be what’s next. Right now, the customer service model is to start a conversation with a bot then over time sync with a live human. That way, the human picks up when it’s critical to impart empathy. That’s because people seek real, human interaction.

When a bot can seamlessly transition to a human during the interaction, ensuring that the conversational context is continued, it will build a better relationship with the customer, one that avoids the pitfalls of virtual versus live interactions. A bot can help patients with the rational side of the information-seeking journey that recognizes the more specific content needs. Then, as the conversation requires more nuance, the patient can be seamlessly transitioned to a live human where they can feel empathy.

Oh, the places that we’ll go with bots. 

Chatbots are here to stay. And will continue to make progress with AI and NLP. How do we utilize bots today to help onboard a patient with a brand or educate about a condition? No matter which, it’s critical that the experience be seamless and contextually relevant and human.

Bots may actually be the first encounter that a patient or caregiver has with a brand, which means that a bot can have meaningful impact if used properly and contextually. So, when planning your next value-added service for your brand, think chatbot plus live agent because healthcare is about the “care” side of health.

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