Email With Heart: Consumers Demand Empathy From Brands

Consumers have feelings. But not all brands understand that, judging by Emotions Win: What Customers Expect in the Age of AI, a study developed by Invoca with Adobe.

Invoca surveyed 1,000 consumers to find out whether brands are giving them comfort. The answer: It depends on the channel.  

Above all, people prize personal interactions more than cold email communications, especially when purchases are stressful.  

Case in point: 54% are relieved when they can turn to a live expert for information, compared with 40% who get relief via chat and 34% through email.

But almost two-thirds said a personal email addressing their concerns would change their mind about sharing a negative experience with a brand.

Overall, email ranks third behind in-person contact and phone across all vertical sectors.

For instance, 41% say healthcare providers meet their emotional needs via email most or all of the time. And 40% say that about home services providers and 33% about travel firms.



But 68% feel healthcare providers deliver that experience best in person, and 65% feel the same about home services firms and 56% about travel.

The phone also beats email in the insurance sector, with 64% citing it versus 37% who specify email.

Chat ranks below email in most verticals, but the two are tied at 28% apiece when it comes to telecoms.

“A personal touch goes a long way, and in every case, in-person and phone interactions performed better than email and chat, often by up to 30 percent,” the study notes.

It gets worse as you drill down. Of the consumers polled, 65% find purchasing from telecoms stressful. And “more than any other channel, telecoms meet consumers’ emotional needs the least often via email.”

Healthcare providers rank lowest in adaptability, but highest in fulfilling consumers’ emotional needs in all channels.

The report shows that consumers want all the help they can get when making tough purchase decisions. And 25% state that a rep’s emotional quotient—the ability to gauge and respond to their emotional needs--is the most valuable attribute of all.

The ability to recognize and respond to their emotional needs.

And when they do speak to a live rep, 25% say the emotional quotient is the most valuable attribute of all.

AI apparently can help. Of those polled, 69% expect that AI will drive most brand communications within the next five years, and 61% say it will speed up shopping. Yet 51% also say AI will make shopping more frustrating, and 61% say the experience will be less personal.

Financial brands rate low in this regard, with only 18% feeling their reps show empathy and 21% that they are adaptable.

In one bizarre finding, the study reports that 29% of consumers under age 35 believe voice assistants like Siri and Alexa can deliver EQ.

Here are the most important deliverables of interactions with brands:

  • Problem solving — 90%
  • Support — 89%
  • Efficiency — 88%
  • Adaptability — 87%
  • Even temper — 84%
  • Empathy — 77%
  • Personalization — 75%
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