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The power of the human touch: Why customer service needs empathy and connection

Andrew Trudeau Senior Consultant 03/05/2023
Gen Z respondents are more likely than other generations to believe that employees should break the rules only if they are personal friends with the customer.

As the world becomes increasingly automated and reliant on artificial intelligence and chatbots, human customer service has become much more significant in businesses. While technology can offer many benefits and efficiencies, it cannot fully replace the value of human interaction, empathy, and problem-solving skills.

Recent statistics support this notion, with nearly half of the respondents (48%) agreeing that employees should bend or break the rules to make customers happy. This sentiment demonstrates a desire for personalized, flexible service beyond rigid rules and procedures.

However, not all instances of rule-breaking are created equal, as a majority of respondents (54%) believe that it is most acceptable for employees to break the rules for loyal, long-time customers. Building relationships and rapport with customers and understanding their individual needs and preferences are crucial for business growth. It also incentivizes customers to return if they expect preferential or distinct treatment of a business’s loyal customers.

Interestingly, Gen Z respondents are more likely than other generations to believe that employees should break the rules only if they are personal friends with the customer. While this may seem concerning, it could also suggest a desire for deeper, more authentic connections with the brands and companies they interact with.

Regardless of the specific circumstances, over half of the respondents (53%) reported that a sales associate or employee had broken the rules to make them happy as a customer. For employers, this stresses the importance of empowering their employees to go above and beyond to provide exceptional service, even if it means bending the rules.

Interestingly, approximately 4 out of 10 respondents (39%) stated that knowing that employees often bend the rules to make customers happy neither positively nor negatively affects their perceptions of the brand as a whole. While this may seem neutral, with a third being somewhat indifferent, it could suggest that customers have come to expect this level of flexibility and personalization from their interactions with brands, despite brands supplementing with digital tools.

In line with these findings, about three out of four respondents (76%) stated that customer service-related rules should be flexible rather than stringent. This attitude suggests that customers value adaptability and a willingness to deviate from established protocols when necessary to meet their needs.

Organizations prioritizing human customer service and fostering a culture of empathy and flexibility are likely to see greater customer loyalty and satisfaction. By recognizing the importance of human interaction in a world increasingly dominated by technology, businesses can create a competitive advantage against their competitors. Organizations can develop deeper connections with their customers and foster greater loyalty and satisfaction by prioritizing empathy, flexibility, and willingness to go above and beyond.

To learn more about the work we do in customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and retention , click the following link for our offering across Customer Experience.

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