Are You De-Humanizing the Customer Experience?

Companies put music from the 50s and 60s in medicine commercials to connect to an older generation. Sometime in the future, we’ll be hearing 2Pac for a laxative commercial.

This is a humorous example, but it’s important to illustrate. We often think a lot about what helps us connect with customers, and focus on marketing messages and communications that relate to and draw in customers. What we overlook is often the most obvious. Humanization.

Tom Peters told a story that he was once was on the line with a call center rep from USAA talking his ear off when he realized he was impacting his efficiency. The rep told him, “Our first and foremost requirement is to build a relationship with you. And so, yeah, if we talk all day, I’ve got a problem.” But he said, “They’re delighted when you and I BS for five or ten minutes.”

He said the two most important things that you do in an organization are hire and promote. And if you want to focus on the soft stuff, hire it. The number one hiring criteria for some of the best leaders is to hire people who are nice. Remember, there are a lot of people who have great degrees. Just don’t hire the jerks. Bo Schembechler, the great coach from the University of Michigan, said that his secret to success was, “We never recruited the hotshots. We looked for good people.” And he said, “The other thing about recruiting people like that is they had much better after-football lives.”

Google found that there were eight attributes of the best employees identified. Seven of them were “soft” stuff, and number eight on the list was the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) stuff. They also found that the most innovative teams were not those made of people with the highest IQs and the best degrees. It was the teams filled with people who listened, shared, and had empathy for each other.

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, once wrote, “There are two kinds of success measures. There are resume successes and there are eulogy successes.” He continued, “Resume successes are that you had a 4.0-grade point average at MIT. The eulogy virtues are, he was really a great guy and he really helped people.”

We have yet to see a tombstone that said, “Joe T. Jones, net worth at the time of death $9,372,842.14.’” You don’t put a net worth on a tombstone. You talk about what kind of a human being the person was. It’s the same with business organizations. How much do you serve your community?

If you are incredibly engaged in your community, you’re going to end up with customers who are more attached to you. And you’re going to end up with a better balance sheet and a better P&L. If you do the people stuff right over the mid to long-term, you’re going to have to have big burlap sacks to carry the money to the bank.

Despite all of the technological advances out there, there is still a market for “extreme humanization.” In other words, the ability to really focus on the humanization aspect of doing business is going to continue to be a differentiating strategy.

There’s a comparison that Peters likes, and it is AI versus IA. AI is artificial intelligence, where you replace people with software. IA is “intelligence augmented,” where you use the software to help people be able to give the kind of customer service that will continue to attract human beings.

So, examine if you’re focused on humanizing your customer experience or de-humanizing it. It might be one of the greatest overlooked differentiators you have.

Andrea Olsen
Andrea Olsen

About the Author

Andrea Olson is a speaker, author, behavioral economics, and customer-centricity expert. As the CEO of Pragmadik, she helps organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to Fortune 500, and has served as an outside consultant for EY and McKinsey. Andrea is the author of The Customer Mission: Why it’s time to cut the $*&% and get back to the business of understanding customers and No Disruptions: The future for mid-market manufacturing.

She is a 4-time ADDY® award winner and host of the popular Customer Mission podcast. Her thoughts have been continually featured in news sources such as Chief Executive MagazineEntrepreneur MagazineThe Financial BrandIndustry Week, and more. Andrea is a sought-after keynote speaker at conferences and corporate events throughout the world. She is a visiting lecturer and Director of the Startup Business Incubator at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, a TEDx presenter, and TEDx speaker coach. She is also a mentor at the University of Iowa Venture School.

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