Humans, not Chatbots, Hold the Key to Customer Loyalty


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In a world where people are continuously connected and able to share good and bad experiences, customers have more influence on brand reputation than ever. They have a closer relationship and emotional investment in the companies they select, and with more ways to interact with a brand; it’s critical to keep customers satisfied. So, what’s the secret to increasing loyalty and ensuring customers use their networking power to recommend your service to a friend? Superior human service.

Automated Service Isn’t Enough:

If your organization is trying to achieve superior service and differentiate the customer experience through digital assistants or an army of chatbots, it’s time to reevaluate your strategy. Digital service offerings are a good supplement but their basic functionality is standardized across most companies. This means your customers won’t be able to differentiate your chatbot from your competitors. Digital assistants don’t personalize conversations, build trust, demonstrate empathy or deepen emotional connections. And if your customers can’t tell what makes your service special, there will be little holding them back from switching providers. The crux of the matter is simple: there is no substitute for a human interaction. Accenture supports this notion, reporting that despite the rise of self-service options, nearly three quarters of consumers will choose a human over a digital capability when seeking advice or looking to resolve a service issue or complaint, and that percentage is even higher when it relates to sophisticated inquiries. This means your phone based service professionals are at the heart of your brand’s customer-relationship and play a critical role in boosting customer satisfaction and long-term brand loyalty.

In order to win customers over for the long haul, service professionals must be engaged, confident, and emphatic to customer needs. Modern day customers want to be respected and valued; they need to trust companies have their best interest at heart. In fact, in a recent survey Cogito conducted with over 1,000 customers, 80% of respondents said they believe a personalized experience is crucial when speaking with a phone professional. Furthermore, 97% reported it is important that a customer service representative demonstrate a genuine interest in solving their problem. If your customers perceive they are not being heard or that their issues do not matter, they will simply leave your brand for another.

Empathy Is A Competitive Advantage:

As service becomes the number one differentiator for customers, organizations are under more pressure to build a brand that prioritizes positive customer experiences. In 2017, the need to offer excellent service has only escalated. To achieve differentiated service, don’t rely on your website’s robo-guidance. Give your customers the empathetic human touch to prove to them how much you respect their time and value their business. Give your service professionals the training and tools they need to build rapport, trust, and emotional connections with your customers. Those organizations that can provide this kind of personalized service will earn the reputation, loyalty, and referrals that will fuel long-term competitive advantage and growth.

Want to learn more? Check out this interview with Donna Peeples, Chief Customer Officer at Pypestream, about Driving Better Customer Experiences Through the Call Center.


  1. The most important points of the post are the section headers you’ve used. Automated Service Isn’t Enough and Empathy Is A Competitive Advantage. Delivering value through experience, and building a solid relationship, and connecting with customers on a personal and emotional level is not only profitable, it benefits all stakeholders as well as the bottom line. And, this isn’t just confined to service and phone as a channel, nor is it limited by industry.

  2. Playing devil’s advocate, empathy is not the be-all, end-all it has been cracked up to be. I’ve seen it used inappropriately in quite a few contact centers, even to the point where the CSR is told to interject their personal experiences. Really? The call is not about the CSR, but about the customer.

    There’s a Harvard Business Review article in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue that is supported by CEB research that sheds some light on what customers want, and it’s not faked empathy. Another article (can’t remember where) points out that expecting CSRs to show empathy where none really exists places significant stress on them and can lead to resentment and cynicism (I’ve seen this, too).

    On a personal note, I’ve been with the same mobile carrier for 8 years; their customer service sucks; their store-front people are okay. But every time I talk to them, my monthly service fee goes down. I have no emotional connection to the company, but I have one of the best deals available. That’s where loyalty lies in commodities.

  3. Agreed! Automation should be used to simplify processes, reduce the effort exerted by customers and create back end processes that allow the customer a seemless experience. Importantly though, its the customer (and by using customer journey maps) that should identify key touchpoints where automation could be implemented and other key areas where personalisation and empathy are key drivers. The problem is that too many digital solutions are being placed in areas where the organisation believes they belong and not the customer and therefore critical insights are being missed.

    I recently had a service issue with a leading brand in household goods. I phoned the service centre because I wanted to talk to a customer service provider to help me with an issue as I already knew I would need a technician (I kept my booklet). I was on hold and told that due to the wait I could go online and fill in a form. I did. I was then sent an email and told to fill in another form because I needed a service technician. I then reentered the same data to get a service tech – the earliest available appointment was 3 weeks later! My tech was great but my experience with the Household Goods provider took me from an advocate of 25 years to a detractor (and boy did I mention it to everyone who visited by house within those 3 weeks). The followup survey did not ask me at all about my experience at the service desk and my ability to get help – it only asked about the technicians service. Automation can be the death of a good company if insights are not gathered by the customer and are not asking the right questions.

  4. I mainly agree with your comment, “if your customers can’t tell what makes your service special, there will be little holding them back from switching providers.” Well . . . at the least, probably less holding them back.

    But I’m struggling with the logical leap you’ve posited: “The crux of the matter is simple: there is no substitute for a human interaction.” I’m unclear how we got from making service special (agreed – this is usually a good thing) to specifying that only humans can deliver that outcome. No epiphany that automation has become deeply embedded in marketing, sales and customer service delivery. Many of us that enjoy the ‘human touch’ in CX don’t realize how much AI and automation underpin the human-to-human interactions that companies deliver. So I don’t see the issue as much as either-or, but rather, how to deploy automation in a strategically valuable way, and not just “because we can,” as so many businesses do. I don’t think there’s anything inherent that prohibits human-less service from yielding loyal or habituated customers.

    I agree with Karen’s comment about empathy. I, too, had been a long time proponent. I even wrote an article about it back in 2008, To an Octopus, ’50’ Means Nothing. Why Empathy Matters But lately, I have read some compelling counterpoints to the arguments I made in the past. In particular, essays from the book, Against Empathy by Paul Bloom (

    Empathy becomes problematic in customer service where the rep does not truly have the same background or way of looking at things that customers do. To share from personal experience, from time to time I need support for my Microsoft applications. I fuss endlessly about how poorly designed one of their features is, or complain that something that once worked fine just suddenly stops working. I recognize that if the person I’m talking to is under age 40, I’m not going to get empathy. He or she is far more comfortable with using the products, and not burdened by my perceptions of how things should work, based on my 30+ years of IT experience.

    What I really want in that situation isn’t empathy, because they can’t provide it. Instead, I want sympathy, and a solution for my problem.

  5. The title itself says a lot about what you want to say about the humans and how do they get customer loyalty.As you explained well in the post, “Chat bots are just the ones who showcase the small thing as a wonderful thing, but humans are the ones who just convey what actually is there”. which actually gains the loyalty of the customers.


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