Customer Service Software and ‘The Fifth Element’


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Customer service is the lifeblood of many companies, the unsung hero that generates repeat business, positive reviews, and the coveted upsell. And most of it, as practiced today, is missing a crucial element. Delighterr

Indeed, there was a 1997 movie entitled “The Fifth Element,” in which actor Bruce Willis made his science-fiction debut. In the movie, Willis must battle a primordial evil by finding four stones representing the four ancient elements—and a mysterious fifth element.

[Spoiler alert—although, if you haven’t seen the film in the past 20 years, it’s probably not high on your list.] That fifth element turns out to be life, and it is embodied not by a stone, but by an actual human being. It is the human being who must combine the other elements and save the day.

That movie is such an appropriate metaphor for what’s missing in customer interactions today. Take this article by Larry Alton, “Four Types of Software That You Need for Better Customer Service,” which came out earlier this summer. Alton correctly claims that a good customer service strategy can mean the difference between bountiful profit and just scraping by, and that customer service is often undervalued. He then proceeds to share the four pieces of technology that companies are using for customer service as part of their best practices: Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Mobile Customer Support, Live Chat, and Self-Service Management.

Each technology gets at one or more of the crucial “elements” of customer service: information, accommodation, convenience, empowerment. But the fifth element is missing.

This is common if your business model is largely transactional, your customer base is large, there is little upsell, and brand loyalty matters more than personal interaction with your brand representatives. For example, if you sell candy bars or laundry detergent, you can probably skip the fifth element.

But there are other business models where relationships matter more. A lot more. If you provide a service and rely partially on word-of-mouth—for example, a real estate agent, or a financial planner, or a recruiting agency—relationships matter. The same goes for large customer service and sales departments. How do CRM, Live Chat, and so on, help people to build better relationships?

Remember, the fifth element, in the movie and in business relationships, is life. It’s important to understand that your customers have lives outside of their interaction with you. Yes, they are customers buying your financial advice or software package. But they are also mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles. They go to the movies or catch a round on the local golf course. They love to eat out, or go scuba diving, or collect antique cars. They have debts, struggles, and pains.

Gaining your customers’ trust means showing a genuine interest in their lives. That is something that humans specifically do. There is a reason that the embodiment of the fifth element in the movie is not a thing, but a living human being.

That’s not to say that technology cannot help. When I set out to build Delighterr, my goal was to go beyond what you could do with your typical CRM and provide real, useful recommendations that could be used to engage a customer. For example, a CRM might have information about where your customer lives, when he or she contacted you, and so on. And it might suggest when to call or email next. But if you tell it that the customer likes scuba diving, will it give you dive vacation packages to recommend? If you tell it that the customer has back pain (not due to your product, hopefully!), will it recommend a lumbar pillow, or yoga classes, or a good chiropractor?

If you can do this—get to know your customers, peek into their lives, and help them achieve what they want to achieve—you will build solid relationships. You will have, in essence, transcended customer service and begun down the road of customer engagement.

To take a peek at how this works, you can sign up for Delighterr and see the recommendation engine in action. In the meantime, ask yourself:

  • What do I wish I knew about my customers?
  • What are my customers’ hobbies? Their likes and dislikes? Their fears and pains?
  • What is preventing me from helping customers achieve their aims?
  • What do I need from my CRM, but that is lacking?
  • Am I using technology to facilitate interaction, or avoid it? If the latter, why are we avoiding it? Are we afraid that front-line employees cannot connect? Is it that we’re too busy? (We’re all busy, btw. But you make time for what is important.) Is it that we have forgotten how to connect?
Baker Nanduru
Baker Nanduru is founder & CEO of Delighterr Inc, a next gen client engagement software company. He founded Delighterr in 2015 with backing from Steve Bennett, former CEO of Symantec Corp and Intuit Inc. He has 15+ years of B2B strategy & marketing experience at Symantec, Veritas & Oracle. Most recently, he served as Sr. Director of Global Channel Strategy & Programs at Symantec, a role in which he was responsible for the company's G2M strategy, partner programs & channel operations. When not working, you can find Baker enjoying running & spending time with his two young daughters.


  1. Great article Baker, with so many companies now looking to completely automate live chat customer service with chat bots it certainly wouldn’t have this fifth and personal element.


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