Pega Launches Empathy Controls for Business: ‘AI with Heart’

Customer Empathy Advisor is designed to help businesses tune AI to forge more mutually-beneficial relationships from both an ethics and a profitability standpoint.

(Dr. Rob Walker presents Pega Customer Empathy Advisor at PegaWorld 2019. Photo by author.)

Pegasystems Inc. (Cambridge, Mass.), has announced today at its annual PegaWorld user group conference in Las Vegas the launch of Customer Empathy Advisor, a new capability of Pega Customer Decision Hub designed to help companies use artificial intelligence (AI) to build more sustainable customer relationships. The feature allows organizations to increase the level of empathy in AI-assisted conversations so they can build more trust, loyalty, and value with each customer, according to a Pega statement.

Rob Walker, VP, Decisioning and Analytics, Pegasystems.

The new capability addresses the problem that, despite businesses’ best intentions to use AI to make customers happier, most AI just adds more spam to people’s lives, sacrificing long-term loyalty for a few short-term sales, Pega says. As AI has becomes easier to deploy, a debate about the ethical dimension of the technology has intensified. For example, just because AI could likely sell a high-interest loan to a low-income family doesn’t mean it should. The question that arises, according to Pega, is how companies can use AI to balance the best interests of both the company and the customer.

“Most businesses are conditioned to try and squeeze every last drop of profit from each customer,” comments Dr. Rob Walker, VP, decisioning and analytics, Pegasystems. “But this predatory mentality distorts the fact that practicing a little empathy is not only good for the customer, it’s good for business. We’ve always believed that the only way to win a customer’s heart is to first walk a mile in their shoes. Today we’re taking a step closer in this pursuit by instilling empathy in customer interactions—which is ultimately the right way to do business for everyone.”

Operationalizing Empathy

The vendor says that using Customer Empathy Advisor, organizations can now operationalize empathy at scale for the mutual benefit of all involved: “Customer Empathy Advisor provides businesses with an ethical framework to instill empathy in all customer engagements and measure the effect. At its core, the AI-powered Pega Customer Decision Hub analyzes customer data to guide customer-facing agents and virtual assistants to take the next best action with each customer. Its Customer Empathy Advisor feature takes this analysis one step deeper by examining how empathic these recommendations are and offers a more compassionate approach—which, contrary to popular belief, is often the most profitable strategy as well,” the Pega statement says.

Pega describes Customer Empathy Advisor as taking a three-step approach to integrating empathy into enterprise decision-making. The following is quoted from the vendor’s description:

1. Analyzing empathy in any engagement

First, Pega’s machine learning capabilities analyze the organization’s marketing, sales, and service strategies to assess the current level of empathy. The Customer Empathy Advisor dashboard breaks down the different elements of empathy applied within each strategy, including:

  • Relevance: Is the action, offer, or suggestion of interest to the customer?
  • Suitability: Will it likely cause harm to the customer?
  • Value: Will the customer likely benefit from it?
  • Context: Is it consistent with the customer’s recent activity?
  • Intent: Does it take into account the customer’s likely goals?
  • Mood: Does it align with the customer’s current frame of mind?

Dr. Rob Walker, VP, Decisioning and Analytics, Pegasystems, presenting at PegaWorld 2019.

From this stage, engagement analysts can pinpoint which actions engender the most trust from customers and which repel them further away from the brand. Using a slider, stakeholders can easily adjust empathy levels and see the impact the change has on relevant KPIs.

2. Predicting the Return on Empathy (ROE)

No business can survive without turning a profit, so before putting empathy into action, Pega says it can predict the effect more empathetic strategies will have on their bottom line in real currency terms. Businesses can then simulate scenarios at different empathy levels to see how that number changes. From a profitability perspective, the system analyzes factors such as:

  • Value to company: Is the action, offer, or suggestion likely to increase the customer’s lifetime value?
  • Risk to company: Will it likely cause customer churn or increase exposure to risk?
  • Compliance: Is it deliberately misselling a product or unable to explain it?

3. Putting empathy to work

With the right balance of empathy in place, businesses can automatically deploy these strategies through Pega Infinity digital engagement suite, powered by the same centralized AI from Pega Customer Decision Hub. This allows empathy to be applied in all marketing, sales, and customer service interactions, both online and off. Instead of force feeding a particular strategy to a segmented audience, companies can optimize the empathy levels in the strategy best suited to the needs of each customer—which in some case may mean taking no action at all, Pega notes.

The Customer Empathy Advisor will be available for all Pega Customer Decision Hub clients near the end of 2019. Pega Customer Decision Hub enables organizations to surface unique insights and recommend the next best action in real time on every step of the customer journey. It provides the centralized AI power across the unified Pega Infinity digital transformation software suite, which optimizes customer engagement and operational efficiency from end to end on a global scale.

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Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at or (503) 936-2803.

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