The friendly face of customer service

I caught a five minute infomercial the other day, embedded in my LinkedIn feed, by…..I forget who. It was yet another contact centre software promo and of course picked up on all the latest buzzwords and themes on engagement, CX and the like.

In and of itself it was an interesting piece with some ‘real’ people citing their experiences of customer service in the context of call centres and whilst it was undoubtedly edited in such a way as to best showcase the provider’s selling points, it chimed with the everyday comments we hear from people about dealing with call centres.

  • People hate faceless interactions.
  • People hate long IVR menus and then being passed from pillar to post.
  • People hate having to re-explain the context and are frustrated by doing so repeatedly.

There seem to be two issues at play here. Firstly, the problem of reaching the right person in order to achieve what we refer to as first call resolution or ‘right first time’.  And secondly, a lack of genuine interaction based on a full understanding of the issue.

These are not new problems. Neither should they be they insurmountable challenges with the raft of technological solutions out there, of which this provider is just one. But these deep rooted feelings and frustrations don’t appear to be dissipating despite our industry’s best efforts and seemingly deep pockets.

What to do?

It strikes me that the missing component in all these transactions is the human touch and our basic human desire for trust in relationships both professionally and personally.

Eye to eye contact increases empathy

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective.

“The currency of most face-to-face interactions is emotions”*

Oxytocin, often referred to as the ‘love hormone’, has been shown to increase during eye to eye contact and studies have shown that trust is increased by oxytocin.  (One research piece has even identified its part in our bond with dogs.) Therefore, a fundamental element of human communication is missing when we talk via faceless channels such as the telephone and electronic media.

I’ve lost count of the number of call centre training sessions in which the classic formula for how much people understand is down to how words are used, what words are said and the importance placed on physiology and visual cues; from memory the breakdown is something like 38%, 7% & 55%. Google ‘verbal vs non-verbal communication’ and there’s a raft of slides and articles for your enjoyment.

So, if we have the technology to speed up the response times, capture data, relate & analyse causes and outcomes, is there also room to consider providing ‘face time’ as a service option? (Other video chat tools are available.)

The good news is, we’re already there

Since first writing this article, I’ve researched who is already out there providing video chat and a couple of examples are listed below.

This article helpfully explains the considerations needed if you decide to go down this route. It will undoubtedly impact all facets of your service offering and affect business decisions from recruitment to office design but I’d be prepared to bet that it would drive tangible improvements in your customer experience and retention.

Take a look at these examples of video chat in action:


*Extract from Face to Face: Toward a Sociological Theory of Interpersonal Behavior. By Jonathan H. Turner. Stanford University Press, 2002.


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