Why empathy is at the heart of Behavioral Intelligence

Kelly Hughes
Kelly Hughes

October 15, 2021

The power of listening cannot be overstated. The renowned American psychiatrist Karl A. Menninger put it best when he said, “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”

Feeling heard and seen is an innate human need. That’s why active listening is so powerful — it’s what unlocks the understanding and empathy that meaningful relationships are built on. As a result, many colleges and businesses are beginning to embrace actively listening at scale so they can connect with their students and employees on a deeply personal level. After all, fostering meaningful interactions with the people you champion is critical to long-term success. 

What is EQ?

It’s not just what you say that matters — it’s also how you say it. Mainstay’s behaviorally intelligent chatbots are designed with supportive, encouraging personalities that facilitate honest and meaningful conversations. These empathetic conversations start by actively listening to what your employees or students are saying and feeling. This is nearly impossible for humans to do at scale — but advancements in technology are changing the game.

Mainstay’s Engagement Platform can compile and analyze millions of digital conversations in real-time and use these aggregate insights to drive positive behaviors, so you can build an engagement strategy that prioritizes meaningful conversations and relationships.

Being more human with EQ 

Higher education and human resources professionals can both benefit from incorporating EQ into their engagement strategies. For example, schools can use SMS text messages to send students timely, thoughtful nudges to meet with an academic advisor. Similarly, businesses can use automated text messaging to provide new hires with a judgment-free way to get their questions answered fast as part of the employee preboarding process.

One of the reasons why empathetic engagement works so well is that many people find it easier to communicate their real feelings to a supportive, unbiased party — like a chatbot. When more personal guidance is needed, our behaviorally intelligent chatbots automatically escalate these conversations to an expert on your team who can address sensitive or nuanced topics.

EQ in action

Enabling empathetic communication is proven to keep students involved and headed in the right direction when they need some guidance. Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus, a regional public university, harnessed the power of EQ to drive their students’ sense of belonging during the height of the pandemic. The results: Total applications are up 44%, total admitted students are up 39%, and full-year enrollment is up 20% compared to 2019.

By leading with empathy and emphasizing identity, Georgia State University in Atlanta boosted FAFSA completion and registration rates by 6% in the first year after introducing Pounce, their personalized chatbot from Mainstay. This approach worked particularly well with first-generation and Pell-receiving students, who appreciated ease of text messaging pounce with familiar language and receiving personalized responses.  

West Texas A&M University has made community-building a priority to support students and keep them engaged through every step along the higher education journey. For example, WTAMU uses their bot, Thunder, to send personalized text messages, actively listen to students’ feedback at scale, and connect them with helpful resources. As a result, their fall-to-fall freshman retention rate increased by more than two percent — and has continued to improve over time.

Exploring the full potential of Behavioral Intelligence 

As the emotional heart of Behavioral Intelligence, EQ is essential to sparking meaningful engagement with students and employees. Empathy is only one piece of the puzzle, though. People also need instant access to the best response in a way that considers the context of their unique circumstances. This requires IQ (intelligence) and CQ (contextual relevance) in addition to EQ. 

Check out “How Behavioral Intelligence unlocks deeper engagement” to learn how our holistic approach to engagement helps people to take the next step toward a more fulfilling life — one conversation at a time.


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