The three cornerstones of the human touch in customer service


Almost anyone, if asked, will agree that the ‘human touch’ is essential to achieving good customer service.

The human touch enables brands to build relationships with their customers. It nurtures trust and respect, and drives customer loyalty. It shows customers they’re valued, and it’s the driving force that turns a functional customer service interaction into a memorable one.

But creating the human touch in customer service isn’t always easy.

Teams need to create and exhibit the three cornerstones of the human touch: empathy, respect, and flexibility.


People don’t remember the details of a situation, but they remember how they felt. So, creating the human touch in customer service is, in part, about recognising, validating and appeasing the emotions of each customer.

Enter the first cornerstone of customer service: empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of your customers. It requires you to identify how a customer is feeling, and then demonstrate that you appreciate why they feel that way. This, in turn, helps the customer feel understood, and is the first step to building trust.

Achieving empathy in customer service requires you to put yourself in the customer’s position. You have to see the situation from their point of view – not just from the brand perspective.

💡 According to a Korean study, empathy levels are linked to better information exchange, perceived expertise, interpersonal trust, and partnership.

But you must go further than simply acknowledging feelings. You should also validate the customer’s emotions by reassuring them that they are understandable.

For example, try using empathy statements like ‘I would feel that way too’. Using the first person (‘I’ rather than ‘we’) is particularly powerful when providing empathetic service. It strengthens the sense of a human connection by making the service feel more personal and human.


Respect is notoriously difficult to define. Everyone has a different idea of what makes for respectful service. Some customers will always want the full red-carpet treatment, while others simply want service with a smile.

In general, respect in customer service is about treating your customers with appreciation and showing them that they’re important to you. It’s about being polite, showing manners and courtesy, and considering the customer’s feelings and sensibilities.

Showing respect isn’t just good form: it’s also good financial sense. People are less likely to buy from a company with an employee they perceive as rude. (Even if the rudeness isn’t directed at them.)

💡 75% of customers would stop doing business with a company after they’ve been made to feel disrespected.

Respectful service makes customers feel good about doing business with you. Not only does this encourage them to respect you in return, it also makes them more inclined to continue giving you custom.

Customers feel disrespected when they don’t feel listened to or appreciated. This can often happen when responses are curt, robotic or repetitive.

So, be sure to listen and avoid interrupting customers. Make sure that you fully understand their question, problem or feedback before replying, and ask questions when you need to. Never assume what they do or don’t know or have and haven’t done.  And at the end of the service experience, always make sure that you thank the customer for getting in touch.


Flexibility in customer service is a major aspect of creating both the human touch, and great service. Customer service flexibility is about being able to think outside the box, to find compromises and the right solutions for each customer.

Robotic service simply follows scripts and processes no matter the customer, issue or solution offered. It’s inflexible, unbending, and downright frustrating for customers, who are left feeling like they’re not being listened to.

Flexible, human service recognises that often what works for one customer isn’t suitable for another.

That’s not to say agents need to break out their Olympic-level gymnastic skills to achieve the human touch. However, they will need a little bit of creative thinking, and the ability to apply it in any customer service interaction.

Achieving flexibility means empowering your customer service team to make decisions that go ‘off-script’. Agents shouldn’t need to refer to a manager every time they need to negotiate a compromise with a customer. Give them the tools and ability to bring creativity to their role on the frontline.

Achieving the human touch

In an age of digitalisation, it’s all too easy to lose the human touch in customer service.

Technology has its place in customer service interactions, particularly when handling interactions that need speed over human attention.

(FAQs, for example.)

But longer, trickier or more critical customer service interactions are more suited to human support. These complex conversations are precisely where the cornerstones of quality customer service should come into play.

Empathy, respect and flexibility are all traits that are inherently human. And they’re always better off coming from humans than being painfully mimicked by chatbots or AI.  With them, teams can build a strong foundation for a great service experience interlaced with the coveted human touch.

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