Consumer PsychologyCustomer Experience

Is empathy dead?


Is Empathy Dead?

It’s blog time again and we’re asking the tough questions. Is empathy dead?

Recently we looked at the modern contact centre and asked “Are we losing our humanity?

The shift to chat and social channels certainly has changed the landscape in which we connect with our favourite brands, and it has also opened up an industry with a flood of robots & AI to do some heavy lifting. Even after a shaky start [@Tayandyou] automation is going to be yuge!

Something we didn’t address directly in “losing our humanity” is the specific impact AI will have on the customer service industry.

This brings us to our favourite video about empathy: It’s not about the nail.


It’s not about the nail

It’s not about the nail illustrates [exaggeratedly] the purpose of empathy in customer service. Empathy is a skill that often needs to be developed in the customer service world. It is also something that robots or AI are unlikely to achieve. Connecting empathetically with another human requires a degree of emotional intelligence and the best customer service professionals are constantly developing this.

While robots may be able to do the heavy lifting and enable customers to further self manage their accounts, or respond to vast amounts of technical difficulties, or process orders faster than any human; they lack the distinctive human experience that makes empathy and emotions possible. Genuine empathy is often just as important as the capacity to deliver a solution or product.


This claim may seem outrageous. However consider this arguement from our favourite behaviour economist Rory Sutherland:

“Consider my example of the Eurostar. Six million pounds spent to reduce the journey time between Paris & London by about 40 minutes. For 0.01% of this money you could have put WiFi on the trains, which wouldn’t have reduced the duration of the journey, but would’ve have improved it’s enjoyment and it’s usefulness far more. For maybe 10% of the money, you could have paid all the worlds top male and female supermodels to walk up and down the train handing out free Chateau Petrus  to all the passengers. You’d still have about five million pounds in change, and people would ask for the trains to be slowed down.”


It’s not *always about the nail. It’s not always about how fast something is, or how efficient it is. Sometimes the customer experience is simply improved through human connection.


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