Engage People on a Human Level

I was talking to a representative from a major company the other day and he told me about a strategy he uses to improve the level of customer service that he provides. He told me that he tries to engage customers on a human level. How he attempts to engage customers on a human level is really quite simple – he asks about the weather. When the same agent above hears a baby crying, he asks if it is a prince or princess crying in the background. It is just another way to make the customer feel special and less anonymous. These types of questions engage customers on a human level.

Engaging customers on a human level is important because it develops a more personal relationship with individual customers. When customers feel less anonymous and more engaged, they are more likely to continue using the company. Personal customer service often translates into quality customer service. It helps make the tone of the call less formal and more relaxed. Technical support and customer service can sometimes be stressful for both parties, so making it more relaxed is always a positive thing to do.

Asking about the weather is an interesting question because it is a simple topic that everyone can relate to. It is also a safe question (unlike how are you) because people don’t get too upset by the weather (and the weather is independent of the quality of service being provided). You don’t have to ask about the weather, though. Other good questions that agents can ask are about sports team (like T-Mobile) and similar questions that are pretty netural and easily relatable to. The point is to ask questions that won’t upset anyone. You don’t want to ask questions that people have a hard time relating to or it could make the conversation awkward.

This is a great way to kill the dead air time that often occurs during calls, especially technical support calls. It’s small talk, but it’s useful. It is a lot better than just silence. Anything that helps personalize the customer service experience is a step in the right direction.

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9 Responses to “Engage People on a Human Level”

  1. JNK said:

    Mar 25, 08 at 6:37 am

    This is great. The prince/princess question is priceless. I always tell people when I am doing remote support that they are looking great today. My dad used to do that when he was talking on the phone with people. I own a computer repair & consulting company in Bel Air, MD I am always tring to give the best support I can give, and many of my clients have also become friends. I just recently started sending out birthday cards as one more personal way to stay in touch with my clients. It’s sad though, that sometimes my card is the only one they get. Always remember that everyone is the same inside – we all want to be treated as an individual.

  2. David Silversmith said:

    Mar 25, 08 at 8:05 pm

    Personally I love and have used this idea myself.

    At one point several years ago I really encouraged my reps to use this practice. What I discovered is that ideas like this are very much personality dependant.

    When I use this approach it comes across as very natural. When I tried to get others to copy my approach – it worked for some. However, for others it came across as very stilted and obviously fake.

    I still love this idea – but I include it as a suggestion – part of a bag of tricks and encourage reps to find the approaches and tricks that they are comfortable with.

  3. Service Untitled said:

    Mar 25, 08 at 10:31 pm

    JNK: That is a funny approach with telling people the look great. Sending out birthday cards are a great touch for personalizing the experience.

    David: You’re right — you can’t force it. If you force it and it isn’t the right use, it won’t help at all (may be do the opposite in fact). I agree fully.

    Thanks for the great comments.

  4. Todd said:

    Mar 27, 08 at 8:01 am

    I personally can’t stand it when agents try to engage me in small talk. It makes me feel like they aren’t as interested in solving my problem as they are in just chit-chatting, plus I know they really could care less what the weather is like here or about my crying prince/princess (which I would find insulting if someone actually did say).

    Small talk like this has always come across awkward to me, just like the really long “goodbye” statements (“Just remember that you can always call us at 800-555-1212 if you have any further problems. We appreciate your business and thanks for calling Company X today! Good-bye.”)

    I don’t think anyone can truly pull this off regardless of personality, as in my humble opinion, it will always seem fake and distracting from the real issue at hand.

  5. Service Untitled said:

    Mar 27, 08 at 4:28 pm


    You don’t want to do it during the nitty gritty time where you are actually doing something. However, it could be a good way to kill time when you’re waiting for something to download, when you need a computer to restart, etc. It depends on the situation. However, there will always be customers who don’t think it is genuine, and for good reason, a lot of the times it isn’t.

  6. Service Untitled » Customer Service of Taxes - Part 2 of 2 - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Mar 29, 08 at 3:10 pm

    […] What the TurboTax representative did was just another example of engaging customers on a human level. You don’t necessarily have to ask about the weather – you just need personality that is different from (and hopefully better than) what’s on the script. My customer service experience with TurboTax made me feel that I made the right choice for my tax preparation software. It also made me sure about who I was going to use next year and in years to come. That’s the underlying goal of customer service and TurboTax (Intuit, actually) obviously understands that. […]

  7. Service Untitled » Engaging Customers In Action: Recognizing Them - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Apr 25, 08 at 10:07 pm

    […] I’ve talked about the importance of engaging customers on a human level before. It’s critical to an excellent customer service experience and it’s critical to making the difference between an above average and an exceptional customer service experience. The companies (and more so, the employees) that can engage customers at a more human level are the ones that are going to see their customer satisfaction scores coming in as 10’s as opposed to 8’s or 9’s. I was at a nice restaurant this evening with some family members and the waiter engaged us on a human level. We’ve been going to this restaurant for quite a while and we’ve seen this waited plenty of times. We hadn’t been there recently, but he remembered us (he said “welcome back, good to see you again”) and when another person at our table asked him a question about how he’s been doing, he told us about a several month RV trip he took around the country. […]

  8. Service Untitled » Engaging with customers. - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jul 07, 08 at 9:25 pm

    […] Engaging customers doesn’t necessarily have to be about killing dead air time (like the previous post I wrote on the subject discusses), but it does have to involve paying attention to and caring about […]

  9. Just Saying said:

    Sep 07, 12 at 4:32 pm

    Too many businesses are trying to engage their customers in small talk and it comes across as phony to me. I hate it. Just give me great customer service and dispense with the “so what are your plans for this weekend?” questions. My weekend plans are none of your damn business.

    a customer who hates intrusive agents