Staying Personal in an Impersonal World

By Tom Larkin and Lindsey Colangelo

It is hard to deny the pervasiveness of technology in society today. Go in any subway car, lunch line, or meeting five minutes before it starts and you will see an array of heads down, angled at the glowing light coming from their laps.   

As helpful and useful as our smartphones, tablets, and laptops can be, it's difficult not to feel nostalgic for a time when people were more invested in those around them than the spiritless screen in front of them. We are constantly competing with technology for the attention of our peers.

The findings from the Pew Internet Project's research show the extent to which society is consumed by their technology:

  • 67% of cell owners check for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don't notice their phone ringing or vibrating
  • 44% of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed to catch any calls, text messages, or updates
  • 29% of cell owners describe their cell phone as "something they can't imagine living without."
Whether you can relate or find these thoughts to be a tad overdramatic, it's clear that technology has a way of consuming us. We're more accustomed than ever to obtaining information instantly. Acquiring information now only lasts as long as the time it takes to type "Google."

The workplace attends to speed and efficiency through technology. Time and time again we have heard that personalizing a customer experience stands out when it is authentic. It is important to give customers the option to communicate with companies through a variety of channels in order to be customer-friendly.

Here are some tips for humanizing your customer service experience in a digital world: 

  1. Set a standard to ensure that, no matter what channel a customer is utilizing, the experience has a human touch. Consider an email or text acknowledgment of, "Pat, I'd be happy to help!" instead of, "Sorry, system can't do that."
  2. Provide a method of transferring information from one channel to the next, so customers don't become frustrated repeating themselves multiple times. Passing along information, such as a client's history with the company and especially their history throughout different channels, will not only connect the channels, but also satisfy the needs of the customer. 

    Consider a hold sequence that sounds like, "Pat, thank you so much for holding, I appreciate your patience. I notice that we don't have your account number in our system. Would you please provide it to me now so we have your most up-to-date information?" Instead of just, "Account number…"
  3. According to Genesys, a recent study shows that 94% of customers are willing to repurchase and 88% of customers increase spending due to low effort interactions. When associates help navigate and sound respectful, it's amazing how effortless the experience feels.
When opening up different digital channels for customers, make sure to keep the personal touch in mind. No matter what digital channels you make accessible for your customers, don't forget or underestimate the importance of a personal phone call or face-to-face interaction. Don't give in to the inherently impersonal nature of technology. Offer your customers options, and let them know there is a live person ready and willing to lend a listening ear; far friendlier and more inviting than a cold, detached screen. 

These practices will not only make your customers' experiences easier, but also a lot more memorable for the right reasons.


Tom Larkin is president and CEO of Communico Ltd. and has more than thirty years of experience as a consultant, coach, facilitator and business owner. He is also the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® and a part-time professor at Fairfield University.

Lindsey Colangelo served as an intern at Communico and provided valuable supprt in many areas including the writing of this article. She is also a Communications Major at Fairfield University.
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