Recently, I was looking forward to a brief getaway. The morning of my trip, I woke up with a sharp pain in my ear.

I called my doctor who worked magic to get me in and out the door in time for my flight. She bypassed the common process and ran the examination in an order that made sense given my needs. I was incredibly impressed with the customer service I received.

Conversely, the return portion of my getaway was fraught with challenges: two flight cancelations, plane maintenance, a crew that timed out and an overnight stay. A day of frustration and exhaustion! As a goodwill gesture, they gave me a flight voucher, miles and a $100 check for incidentals. But even all those didn’t make me feel much better and I started to ponder why.

When I called the doctor, I had a one-hour window. I explained I needed to catch a flight and they told me to head right in. The doctor even came into the waiting room to get me. It was an incredibly personal experience where I felt understood.

During my travel experience, despite having the top airline status possible, there wasn’t a single individual who tried to empathize with my situation. I’d bounce from one person to the next, each tasked with dealing with one small piece of the puzzle. In today’s world where “81% of customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative*”, I had fallen into the other 19%. I desperately needed someone to realize I wanted a human to hear the full story rather than viewing a single piece of data and assuming they’d done their job. And the automated notifications I was receiving about new flight times only added insult to injury. Oddly enough, I only felt more optimistic a few days later when I received a phone call – not a canned survey – from a person who wanted me to explain the entire experience and ask how they could have made it better.

Brands such as Zappos and Apple are known for going out of their way on customer service. Other brands are known for strong loyalty programs. The opportunity lies in tying these more closely together — something few have done. They’re separate departments where loyalty represents another “thing” customer service agents need to be trained on instead of a tool to build a connection. With so much data available, using it to cultivate experiences — even when things have gone terribly wrong — will help brands recover and strengthen relationships rather than risk attrition.

Being human in today’s world of automation and do-it-yourself is ever more important. I’m optimistic at Bold Orange about how companies can not only personalize communications and touchpoints, but how they can truly nurture personal connections.


Julia Testa

VP, Strategy and Insights

Sources: Dixon, M., Ponomareff, L., Turner, S., & DeLisi, R. (2017). Kick-Ass Customer Service. Harvard Business Review