Customer service, if in doubt, be human.

“The Human Experience: How to make life better for your customers and create a more successful organisation” reminds me of “The ministry of common sense“. You should also watch this (Brian Solis also wrote a great book on customer experience, click here):

Customer service

Customer service is still a hugely underestimated aspect of running a successful business. And with AI and robotics, that will increase to be the case. Nothing beats real humanity. Ultimately, the only thing that really matters is how you make people feel. Companies should be there to help make life as easy and enjoyable as possible. And investing time and effort in creating a human customer experience will, in turn, lead to a more efficient organisation. Realising that new technology is not a shortcut to satisfaction and cost-saving, and forgetting what matters to customers.


The book quotes “Four Thousand Weeks“. One of my favourite books. Referring to “smoothness”. The average customer can expect to spend around 43 days of their life waiting on hold. That’s a month diving in the Maldives, a few weeks travelling on the Trans-Siberian railway or ten re-watches of the whole of Game of Thrones. How smooth is your customer experience? How frictionless? How amazing? How memorable? How unique?

Three myths

John Sills says there are three myths. The myth of customer loyalty, the myth of customer feedback and the myth of ROI.

The myth of customer loyalty 

Companies seem to work on the presumption that all the hard work is in winning a customer and that once a customer has been won, they’re staying forever. Customer loyalty is a myth. Staying useful is what matters. And if in doubt, remember that nobody cares about your business as much as you do. In a world where bigger organisations focus on the functional experience, ‘loyalty’ is just shorthand for usefulness – or, more specifically, staying more useful than the alternatives. Where ‘customer loyalty’ does exist, it tends to be with smaller, local companies, those that are a crucial part of the community, or where the owner is personally known and regularly visible. Focus on creating emotional connection and creating a deep relationship. Ones that outlast any bumps in the road. 

The Myth of Customer Feedback

What consumers tell you they will do and what they actually do are different things. The only time you can know that people are telling the truth is when they’re searching for something. People are only consumers for a few hours of the day; if you don’t understand how to add value to hours of their day outside of being consumers, you run the risk of creating a brand that lacks staying power. Rarely do companies take the time to understand and uncover the deeper psychological stresses and strains impacting customers’ lives. Rarely do companies listen to people’s real-life experiences and behaviours, seeing them as humans instead of a sanitised and aggregated collection of thoughts based on a hypothetical situation or a specific product a company produces. Read “


The Myth of ROI

Customer service is not an efficiency. The challenge for organisations is to find the balance between the undoubted efficiency provided by new technologies and the role of responsive humans in keeping customers happy. Many organisations seem to forget that the ROI of a good customer experience is, well, more new customers and more current customers buying more from you. Organisations that maintain higher customer satisfaction than their sector average have achieved stronger turnover growth, profit and employee productivity than those whose customer satisfaction is below the sector average.

The mistakes

  • Building large, expensive journey maps that end in a recommendation of ‘Transformation’ (rather than having a laser focus on the few moments that matter most);
  • Pestering customers for feedback and focusing on averages, not actuals,
  • Instead of loyalty, organisations need to focus on usefulness.
  • Instead of feedback surveys focus on genuine understanding.
  • Instead of ROI, focus on the cost of inaction. 

Employee experience 

In most organisations, the customer experience team and human resources teams are rarely on the same floor, let alone in the same meeting rooms. They’re both focused on the same thing – building a good reputation with the public, hoping to earn decisions in their favour and then giving an experience that makes people feel great about interacting with them. The first step to providing a great customer experience is to get great people; the first step to getting great people is to give an excellent colleague experience.

The seven traits 

These are seven organisational traits that, if adopted, will lead to more human companies and better customer experiences regardless of sector or country. 

  • Accessible 
  • Consistent 
  • Flexible 
  • Proactive 
  • Respectful 
  • Responsible 
  • Straightforward.


  • Ambition (to trailblaze on behalf of customers). Understanding the things that will always matter, taking inspiration from outside your industry, and believing happy customers will lead to commercial success. The rallying cry.
  • Connection (to what really matters to customers). The authenticity and guiding principles
  • Empowerment (of colleagues to do what’s right). Organisations are full of humans that aren’t allowed to act in a human way. That is damaging to a company in three ways. Firstly, it’s bad for customer experience. Secondly, it’s costly to the business. Finally, it restricts the flow of ideas through the business, leaving all innovative thinking and strategic decision-making to the few at the top, who probably have similar demographics, views and life experiences.
  • Focus (on the moments that matter). Being brilliant in the high-impact moments. Knowing the small moments that mean something. These small moments don’t just have to be moments of high emotion, either. They can be moments that annoy customers but also are causing financial problems for the organisation.
  • Perspective (to see the bigger picture). Understanding the things – nature, culture, governance – that will change slowly, and the others – regulation, technology, fashion – that will change far more quickly. So, to really understand what’s going to matter to customers in the future, be curious about the inevitable, the things on the edges, the companies getting into trouble, the breakthrough scientific discoveries.


Being accessible means being easy to get in touch with, being responsive when a customer contacts you, and having visible leadership and transparent ways of working.


The best organisations are consistent across the relationship, not just brilliant at the initial customer ‘onboarding’. They’re consistent in the message they give to customers and colleagues about who they are and why they exist. Brand promise = brand reality. Being consistent means that the customer’s reality matches the brand promise; the experience is the same; however the customer chooses to interact, the whole relationship is as good as it was at the beginning.


Being flexible means knowing when to stand in front of the rules, adapting to different people and situations, and allowing customers to have curated choices.


Being proactive means doing the work for customers, identifying and resolving potential problems, and answering the next question before it’s asked.


Being respectful means being conscious of the customer’s time, respecting them as individuals, and showing humility when called for. Respect and humility are crucial human traits that seem to have gone missing in the past decade, more broadly in public discourse and, more specifically, in customer experience. Amazon presume the best in us humans (and they know it’s more efficient to trust people than to slow the system down for everyone).In contrast, many companies presume the worst of their customers.


Being responsible means taking ownership of the experience and problems, helping achieve the customer’s desired outcome, and caring for your customer’s well-being. Each company is a small part of a big jigsaw carefully put together by the customer to help them have the life they want. Treat every customer as if they were your granny.


Straightforward means providing certainty of what’s going to happen and, when speaking in jargon-free human language, creating an adult-to-adult relationship. When humans lack certainty, our imagination fills in the blanks. Humans crave certainty, and while making big marketing promises or giving a great service helps to build trust, seeing an organisation react brilliantly when something goes wrong is what reinforces that certainty in a customer’s mind.


Measuring actuals rather than averages may bring the human impact to life. For example. Why not measure:

  • ‘ Human Lives Wasted’ instead of ‘Average Waiting Time’?
  • ‘Relationships Started’ rather than ‘Accounts Opened’? 
  • ‘Customer Holidays’ instead of ‘Savings Balances Held’?

Core needs

Unless customers’ core needs are met, everything else is insignificant. We are humans. Humans can read a situation, read emotions, and understand the nuances from their own experiences or their own ability to empathise. All you need is to be human and heartfelt, a moment of connection provided by someone who wants to create a great experience, understands what matters to customers and has the ability (and opportunity) to deliver it.

Human connection

People deliver human experiences and need human connection. Humans are messy, with messy lives and messy relationships. They’re less predictable than a machine or robot – but they’re also much more magical. Also, read “Sensemaking“.  If in doubt, be human.

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
× How can I help you?