In this series, we asked speakers at the Milken Institute London Summit to make one prediction about a trend that will shape Europe in the next 10 years. Join the conversation by writing your own article here and including #MIGlobal. Follow the Milken Institute to get updates from the London Summit.

 

As leaders, we pride ourselves on our people skills. We coach our colleagues. We empathise with stakeholders. We monitor the emotional health of our organisations as closely as we do more tangible metrics, because we know that ripples of discontent can seriously rock the boat if left unchecked.

Leading an emotionally intelligent workplace is one thing. But the decade ahead demands more. Much more. Your customers too will expect to see your people skills in action – every day and across every touchpoint.

One of the counterintuitive quirks of the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution will be that even as the robots rise and digital channels dominate, expectations of warmer, more empathetic and human interactions will intensify. A generation of consumers at ease with sharing digitised emotions online will expect brands to mirror these emotions in their communications and other forms of engagement.

How will companies meet consumer expectations, and at scale? Tech-enabled conversation will inevitably play a role. Symbolic of our embrace of digital communication, 58% of the global consumers we talk to find chatting with friends and family by instant messaging as valuable as chatting face to face, rising from 45% in 2015. Within this, 25% find instant messaging more important than face to face – showing how important chat is to consumers.

Already, consumers tell us they welcome more human interactions with commercial partners on their channels of choice. Over a third of Europeans say they are keen to use chat messenger services to have a personal dialogue with brands, for instance to ask for advice or to receive recommendations. In fact, interest in using chat for interaction of this kind outweighs interest in more functional reasons to connect (such as transferring money or making a payment), opening the door to brands to deliver solutions that mimic offline human interaction but in digital surroundings.

And as consumers migrate to more conversational voice commands – we forecast that over one in three UK consumers will have used voice commands on personal devices by 2025, rising to a majority of under-35s – the natural question becomes: Is your brand ready to respond? And in what tone of voice?

Meanwhile, advances in scalable emotion-tracking services – an expanding field that includes biometrics, facial coding, web footprint analysis, language and gesture indicators – promise a future in which brands can respond in real-time to the customer’s inferred emotional state. See the work of Entropik Tech, an Indian startup which aims to analyse user’s touch patterns to determine their emotional state. Yolk!, meanwhile, is an app that claims to detect users’ moods to suggest appropriate foods.

Yes, concerns about emotional privacy will inevitably surface in response to innovation of this kind but the benefits – an emotionally attuned brand – will be hard to resist for too long. In reality, there are a myriad (and not always tech-driven) of ways to position as a human-first brand but very soon, commercial relationships that do not feel empathetic and responsive will soon seem underpowered by comparison.

It is time for every B2C brand to perfect its people skills for the revolution in emotional engagement that awaits us.

 

 

This post was first published on LinkedIn