Customer Experience, Work

How To Lose 680k Fans In 4 Paragraphs: Customer Experience Lessons from EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2 Disaster

This week, EA made a splash on Reddit by posting what would become the least popular comment in the site’s history—with over 680,000 users downvoting EA’s reply to a Reddit thread about the role of microtransactions in the upcoming video game Star Wars Battlefront 2.

A thread entitled “Seriously? I paid 80$ to have Vader locked?” ignited a fierce outcry from users who were unhappy that some of the game’s core heroes, like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, were locked to play from the start of the game. These players were only unlockable through more than 40 hours of game time or by paying extra money for in-game credits to buy the characters.

EA’s PR team were quick to respond, noting that “the intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.”

This response evidently rang hollow for players, with over half a million fans downvoting and commenting to express their dissatisfaction with EA.

While the realm of gaming might seem far removed from the day to day work of our contact centers and marketing teams, EA’s handling of the crisis provides timely lessons for any customer experience professionals seeking to understand, and deliver, what their customers truly want.

Don’t Make Customers Grind To Get Core Functionality

The concept of ‘grind’ is a common one in the gaming community. Grinding is the act of performing repetitive in-game tasks purely to unlock a particular reward or feature, and it’s implemented unintentionally by game developers. It’s a mechanic that frequently causes frustration for gamers when the rewards given often don’t end up feeling rewarding enough, given the grind it’s taken to get them.

In Battlefront 2, it would have taken more than 40 hours of play to unlock a single character. With matches lasting 15 minutes, that’s a tremendous amount of grind to get what many players considered to be a core feature of the game – the ability to play as a key character in the Star Wars universe.

The mechanic might seem fairer if the game was free to play. But having already shelled out a significant amount of money for the base game, many gamers had expected that they would be getting full access to the product they thought they’d paid for.

Companies of all kinds can learn from this. If you’re releasing a feature that will only bring rewards after hours of configuration, that’s subjecting your customers to an amount of grind that they likely won’t have perceived when they signed up in the first place.

Or if your product or service only operates correctly once the customer has invested a lot of time or extra money into it, be upfront about that to ensure that customer expectations match the reality of your product – or risk the wrath of your fan base.

If 680,000 People Tell You That Your Feature Sucks – It Probably Does

Do you listen to your customers? Most businesses would say that they do, and in their response to the Reddit thread EA certainly set out to convince players that they were being listened to.

But despite EA’s stated commitment to their fan base, part of the reason why their comment was so universally panned was because they maintained that the purpose of locking characters was to provide players with a sense of accomplishment and pride – presumably once they had played enough to unlock them. But many players saw no accomplishment and pride to be gained through dedicated gameplay when rich players can just open their wallets.

Reddit users were quick to jump on EA’s PR-crafted response, which didn’t offer any solutions to players who were so angry about the issue. Instead, many perceived it as an attempt to deflect criticism to cover what many players saw as ruthless money-grabbing.

If a majority of your customers are unhappy about a feature of your product or service, no amount of PR-speak is going to pacify them – honesty and action will. In cases like these, companies need to recognize when customer complaints represent a real – not perceived – product flaw, and act appropriately.

In EA’s case, a sincere apology coupled with a plan of action could have saved the situation from becoming a PR disaster – although paying attention to user feedback in the beta test stage would have prevented the problem from occurring in the first place.

Your Competitors Love Your Failures. Don’t Let Them Take Advantage

Shortly after EA’s response, Blizzard was quick to react by posting a video and tweet which underlined their commitment to free-to-play gaming in their upcoming game, Starcraft II.

All of us tend to craft narratives to better understand the world around us. In this case, it was easy for customers to seize on EA’s response, portraying them as a corporate, money-grabbing machine, far removed from the concerns of average gamers. And this narrative spread like wildfire on social media.

Blizzard has taken advantage of EA’s crisis to paint a picture of themselves as a company who care about their players, and who incorporate product features which people like – in this place, free-to-play games with no hidden costs. Gamers were quick to like and retweet Blizzard’s feisty response to the outcry, putting Blizzard into the happy position of looking like a far more customer-focused company.

Even if your company isn’t engaged in tweet wars with other companies, you can be sure that your competitors are assessing how to craft narratives that convince your customers that they’re the better company. In this case, Blizzard saw the evident customer pain in this community, and took advantage of the outcry to create a straightforward narrative which provided answers to that pain.

Carefully consider what narratives you need to weave that speak to the problems your customer is experiencing. It’s those narratives that will get you traction in the hearts and minds of your customers, and prevent your competitors from harnessing your flaws for their gain.


Time For A Change

EA later acknowledged fan’s opinions and announced they would lower the cost of buying heroes by 75%. But for many players, this response was only a sticking-plaster fix to a broader issue – that game developers are too quick to demand hours of a player’s time for far too meager a reward.

In EA’s case, they’d hugely overestimated the amount of time players were willing to spend to play as generic stormtroopers to get to play the franchise’s most iconic characters. This failure was enough to lose them 680k fans in a matter of days and become the biggest PR disaster in Reddit’s history.

And EA’s failure highlights a significant issue within the customer experience field. Too often, customers get tied up in navigating convoluted processes or waiting for support responses, only to find they’re chasing an outcome which feels barely satisfactory. Just like in EA’s case, the ratio of time versus reward is seriously off.

In the world of customer experience today, we all need to consider how much time we’re asking of our customers – and whether the rewards they get from our products or services justify the time they spend obtaining and using them.

Time is finite. You can never get it back. And you can’t give it back to a customer if you waste theirs. But ensuring that your customers feel positively about the time and effort they’ve made to buy into your product or service will always be a winning CX strategy – whether you’re a giant gaming company, a tiny mom and pop firm, or any other type of business.

Customer Experience, Personalized Service, Work

Are Customer Satisfaction Surveys Annoying Your Customers?

Customer Satisfaction Surveys are a familiar concept to everyone working in customer service – in their simplest form, at the end of an interaction with a business, customers rate the quality of the service they received. This data is a goldmine of insight. Voice of the Customer (VoC) information is arguably the most important information there is in assessing the effectiveness of the service you provide. It’s as close to impartial, objective, and honest feedback as many businesses can often get. But could asking customers for feedback actually be damaging your business?   It sounds impossible, right? But let me explain.

Melissa’s Story

I was talking to a friend last weekend about the problems she’s been having with her internet provider.  Melissa was moving house, and she had called her old internet provider to arrange for her service to switch to her new address. She’d clearly confirmed the move date to the rep she spoke to – only to find that as move day approached, her internet service got cut off without warning. Moving house is a tricky time requiring a lot of communication with different companies, so this was disastrous for her. After many complaints, she’d finally managed to get the issue resolved – although not without having to complain on several channels – before finally getting a dongle to tide her over until she moved. I sympathized with her situation as she vented. “Honestly, even though I got my issue sorted in the end, it was so, so stressful and such a waste of time. They’re useless – from the rep who couldn’t even take down my move date correctly, to the annoying text messages they send me after every call asking if I’m happy. I’ve expressed very clearly that I am not at all happy!”

The Problem with Post-Transaction Surveys

Many post-transaction customer satisfaction survey processes aren’t clever. A server somewhere simply gets customer data, and pings off an email or a text message in response.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve already expressed to a rep that you would rather get your toenails pulled out than have to repeat business with their company. Most processes automating CSat simply fire off requests for feedback quite indiscriminately.

And for some customers, that’s incredibly annoying. Many companies don’t make it clear whether feedback given in a survey is actioned in the same way as it would be while talking to a rep.

I’ve known customers work themselves up into a frenzy on automated post-call surveys, as they feel they’ve had to repeat themselves – once on the call to an agent, once to a faceless system. For these customers, lack of clarity around the aims of survey process results in suspicion. Many aren’t sure if a human being looks into post-call survey results at all. Other customers suspect that soliciting feedback is simply a way to put a PR-friendly, benevolent mask onto an uncaring corporate monster. All this can be prevented: Customers shouldn’t be asked to give feedback via an automated system when they’ve already told a human rep how they feel.

In this age of omnichannel where customers expect service across phone, chat and social to be joined up – shouldn’t our surveys be the same?

My Story

Love them or hate them, Amazon has changed the face of eCommerce, if you still have any doubts check out the recent us trade data. I’m quite firmly in the ‘love’ camp. Since I moved to Canada I’ve missed eBay, widely used by Brits like me to get items they need shipped right to their door. eBay doesn’t seem to be ‘a thing’ here in Canada, so Amazon has stepped in to fill the gap for me. I end up talking to customer support a reasonable amount, from asking about pricing to delivery options to postage queries.

After my contacts with them, I always get an email in my inbox from them asking if I’d like to rate the transaction. And honestly, they’re burning me out. Getting a survey after every single interaction feels overkill – as a customer, it feels transactional, not relational. I’m a regular customer, and Amazon already know I’m happy, so I shouldn’t need to tell them again.

The Future of Customer Satisfaction Surveys

As the customer service improvement trend boomed, it was difficult to consider how a harmless request for customer feedback could result in negative situations.

But times have changed.

In the same way that omnichannel is making customer service smarter, AI is making technology smarter. And as a technological process largely untouched by AI, post-transaction customer satisfaction surveys are ripe for disruption. AI can help us weed out those customers who are frequent purchasers and will get annoyed at being sent a survey every time. It can help us identify customers who are happy and have little reason not to be unhappy. It could even stop surveys being sent to customers who’ve spent very low values and who simply won’t see any personal benefit in completing a survey.

And one day, CSat surveys could be obsolete. AIs will rate and score customer sentiment from conversational cues, to provide an objective look at customer satisfaction without even needing to ask the customer.

Until then, companies shouldn’t believe that customer satisfaction surveys are the savior of customer experience, able to do no wrong. The devil is in the details. Like any customer experience initiative, you’ve got to consider the customer’s entire journey with you, not just a series of touchpoints.

So what changes can you implement now to prevent your customers getting burnt out on surveys?

Maximize the value of your feedback – for you and for your customer – by asking for feedback from infrequent visitors and purchasers, and customers less familiar with your brand. Do this by tracking survey history alongside regular wrap up metrics, and determining a ‘sweet spot’ where feedback surveys sent are less likely to be perceived negatively, and more likely to yield truly helpful data.

A Final Thought

Imagine if your partner were to text you constantly asking you to tell them whether you still love them. You’ve already told them how much they mean to you, but still, they keep asking. You’d almost certainly perceive them as needy and insecure – they shouldn’t need this to be constantly and repeatedly reaffirmed.

Well, a lot in good customer service isn’t that different from holding down a good relationship. It’s not necessary to ask for feedback if your partner (the customer) has already clearly told you how they feel. And you shouldn’t be risking driving away your customer by annoying them with repeated feedback requests.

Don’t risk becoming the needy partner in the eyes of your customers. Try out some smarter survey processes and see your customers reap the benefit.


Customer Experience, Work

Call Center Customer Service Practices That Need to Die

Call centers have a dark history. From being labeled “Electronic Sweatshops” to being compared to sophisticated prisons, call centers have suffered from stigma for decades – and some may argue, rightly so.

Development of technology through the 1960s and 70s meant call centers were transformed into places where managers could see, hear, and control every aspect of their staff’s work. Calls were recorded, handle times were reduced, bathroom breaks were timed. Literature from early monitoring systems describes “Total control made easy” as the goal for centers which were, quite literally, brutally efficient – often at the expense of their customers, not to mention their employees.

Around the end of the 80s, Jan Carlzon, then-CEO of Scandinavia Airlines published his book, Moments of Truth. It’s an account of how the airline changed its customer service model by paying close attention to the times their customers had contact with them, with the recognition that the thoughts and feelings of the customer in that ‘moment of truth’ can influence their buying behavior throughout their entire lifecycle with that company.

Moments of Truth was revolutionary as it promoted optimizing the quality of customer interactions, not their quantity, and accelerated the shift which placed quality customer service at the center of business operations – not as an inconvenient resource drain at the periphery of ‘real business’.

Thankfully, we’re now in a brave new world where the customer’s experience is regarded as a critical competitive differentiator for companies who have already maximized the quality, speed, and price of their product as much as they can. What’s more, companies are realizing that to stand out from the pack, improving employee experience and building a culture everyone wants to be a part of helps them to run businesses that are not just profitable and sustainable but ethical too.

But there are a lot of people – from call center managers, all the way up to the CEO – who are still operating working practices from the dark days of call center management, without recognizing the harm that these practices cause to modern day employees, customers, and even their own businesses. Read on to see if you recognize any of these.

If a customer screams in the woods and nobody hears them, did they ever make a sound?

It might sound like a no-brainer that when a customer has an issue with your product or service, you need to fix it for them – to keep their custom and to maintain your reputation.

But many 80s business practices took a myopic view of customer contact, treating it as a cost sink and a burden. Even today, some businesses seem to deliberately avoid contact with their customers, leaving their customers screaming for help with no way for them to be heard.

Larger companies especially are guilty of burying their contact number deep within their website, forcing customers to navigate through a myriad of FAQs and knowledge base articles before they can finally get to a phone number – if they can find it at all.

Lauren Freedman, e-commerce expert and president of market research firm the E-tailing Group, is outspoken in her criticism of this practice. “You should not have to kill yourself to find the number, it should be right there on the home page. It’s an opportunity for a company to say, ‘We believe in service.’”

Consider also that statistics from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs show that for every customer who complains, 26 will stay silent. So on top of this already worrying statistic, companies who try to deflect customer contact are robbing themselves of a goldmine of feedback from their customers. This feedback gives companies opportunity to improve their service and build trust with their customers, instead of damaging relationships with them and eventually driving them away.

You wouldn’t ignore your house if it was on fire. So if your customers are shouting for help – ignoring them isn’t going to solve the problem.

Where Targets and Ethics Collide

After escaping the depths of the recession of 1982, the USA bounced back and straight into the arms of consumerism. People wanted to spend money, and companies wanted to give them the products they needed. Sales became a big deal, and call centers sprang up to meet the demand.

Although salespeople have made economies thrive since the beginning of time, problems start occurring when sales targets become a company’s sole concern, pressuring their staff to sell things to people who don’t need them – or even worse, where selling to them could be actively harmful to their health and wellbeing.

A recent report from CBC demonstrated this all too well. It highlighted the pressures on Canadian contact center staff to sell at any cost – putting uninformed, vulnerable customers into debt, and forcing customers who don’t want to buy to repetitively say ‘no’ to reps who are scripted to challenge them several times.

A response from one of the banks in the report states that these employees are encouraged to act in a responsible way and that where concerns arise, an ethics hotline is available for any employees with concerns. Another bank stated that they take seriously “any suggestion of behavior not aligned with our values.”

And many companies, like this bank, tend to think that establishing a clear statement of values is enough in demonstrating what value-driven work looks like. But even one of the most unethical companies in the world, Enron, had a core values statement which sounds remarkably similar to that of many companies today:

  • Communication – We have an obligation to communicate.
  • Respect – We treat others as we would like to be treated.
  • Integrity – We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely.
  • Excellence – We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do.

Corporate values didn’t work for Enron – and they’re still not working today. It’s just not enough for companies to develop values statements or codes of conduct, stick them up on posters around the office and assume that’s all the work that needs to be done. Corporate values and ethical thinking need to be worked into actual business processes and truly lived by everyone within an organization.

I once knew of a company who had this down to a T. The CEO and heads of departments talked about values alongside everything they did and it set the standard for making ethical work a part of every decision that was made.

What’s more, in every annual review cycle, staff were set goals not just in terms of the work they performed, but also measured in how much they embodied the behavioral traits that each value encompassed.

It’s not easy to pin down specific behaviors as evidence of holding certain values, but because of this a lot of great discussions were had around what ethical working really looked and sounded like – causing corporate values to transform from abstract ideas of ‘good work’ to agreed, concrete working practices.

Hanging on the Telephone

In the same way that technology in the 1980s fueled the ability for call center managers to mercilessly monitor their staff, IVR technology was snapped up too by companies wanting to get rid of traditional switchboard operators and transition to an automated model.

We’ve all been marooned on a terrible IVR with seemingly no way to speak to an actual human. And, on the whole, it’s safe to say that confusing options and having to press a bunch of buttons tends to make customers more angry than enamored with your company.

As a Brit, I dread any time I need to call the tax office, as I’m sure they break the record for highest number of complex layers of IVRs to get through. At my last count, they had eight. (I’d be interested, if slightly horrified, to hear of any more record-breaking IVR experiences you might have!) But layers upon layers of IVRs aren’t exactly unusual – in fact, one in five companies report having 5 or more layers in their IVR.

Speech recognition software built into IVRs can make matters even worse, leaving some customers (especially those with regional accents) wondering if the wildly off-the-mark responses they receive from them are a big joke that’s being played on them by a prank call show.

And those designing IVRs can be spectacularly insensitive to the needs of callers. I know of one company who designed an IVR with a few different options for callers with queries about their pension. One of the menu options was “Press three if you’d like to report someone who has died.” Several grieving relatives commented how cold and final it felt to navigate through an automated system and press a button to report that their husband, wife, mother or father had passed away.

IVRs are just one example of where companies implement automation to improve the customer experience but end up missing the mark. And as the march of technology continues, more companies will surely fall foul of implementing systems that hinder, rather than help their customers.

Although some might say that chatbots are becoming a big deal, automated systems, from bots to IVRs, will never completely replace real, human contact. No matter how much automated systems are dressed up to look like humans, it’s still very clear to customers that the majority of them tend to only be there for one purpose – to save money, because actual human staff are just plain expensive.

Of course, it would be amazing if we all lived in a world where great staff were plentiful and cheap and we didn’t have to worry about balancing efficiency and quality. But it’s not impossible to implement automated systems which enhance the customer experience by assessing individual process efficiency and use automation as a considered solution. Technology should always be used as an appropriate spot-treatment to drive process improvement, rather than applied with a wide brush for the sake of cost savings.

So get rid of all of those layers in your IVRs. If you want to use bots, fine, but don’t use them to totally replace the human touch that some customers really need. Human contact should always be a choice for companies who care about the customer experience.

Safeguarding and Championing Call Center Professionals

If you asked your average person on the street whether they would like to work in a call center, chances are that they would say no. The stigma attached to call center work is well-documented and sadly, persists even today – even though the nature of much of this work has significantly changed since the dark days of the 70s and 80s when contact center work was at its most cut-throat.

Now, around 75% of businesses view service as a competitive differentiator and, as a result, have transformed their strategies from quantity- to quality-focused models of call center provision, with benefits not only for customers but for contact center agents too.

Job design for these agents has become increasingly complex and workers in these roles need to employ an increasing amount of professional skills – from technological fluency, to pressured decision-making, to emotional intelligence, the demands on contact center agents are only increasing.

And when I talk about professional skills, I do mean skills like those in the traditional professions. Consider that in technical support roles, contact center staff often need to have the same in-depth knowledge of a product or piece of software as the engineers and programmers working behind the scenes. The emotional labor demands on other contact center roles are akin to those experienced by nurses and social workers.

Looking at nursing, regulators all over the world work to ensure that nurses are protected from the negative personal impacts of emotional work. And engineers go through rigorous training and certification to ensure they’re equipped with the skills they need to do their job well. But all too often in the contact center, staff aren’t given the time or consideration they need to adequately handle demanding or difficult interactions, become fluent with the latest technology, or develop awareness of the industry outside of their company. Continuous Professional Development isn’t part of typical contact center terminology, but it absolutely should be if you want the best and brightest to continue to support and develop your business for years to come.

It’s vital that in the face of changing contact center skillsets, managers are deeply attuned to the shifting needs of their agents and recognize them as skilled professionals with the same needs as any other professional worker. Just as customer service has been placed at the epicenter of modern business strategy, contact center agent development and wellbeing deserve to be placed at the epicenter of business concerns.

Contact center professionals aren’t deserving of the same low status as fast food workers any more. The world has long since changed. And today, we have not just the imperative, but the obligation – to them and to our businesses – to start treating them as legitimate professionals.

New Challenges for Modern Times

Over the last 50 years, contact center thought leaders, strategists and managers have slowly shaped contact centers into better places for our customers, agents, and businesses. Sure, there’s still a way to go – but all of the evidence shows that we’re getting there.

Now, with technology offering us new transformative options in customer service, we’re in a place of great opportunity and new challenges.

It’s up to us whether we use technology to make contact center interactions easier, timelier and more efficient for our customers and our agents, or whether we return to the dark days of contact center provision and push new innovations primarily as a cost reduction opportunity for businesses.

It’s clear though that all the changes which occurred in the last few decades happened because businesses started truly listening to their stakeholders and thinking more deeply about the impact of their actions – looking beyond business outcomes to consider the role of the contact center in the lives of their customers, the wellbeing of their employees, and their impact on society.

This ethical consideration will be a vital management skill in years to come to help us all to provide customer service which comes from a place that aims to truly do good – rather than just aiming to do the right thing because it’s good for business.

And the more we can deeply and objectively assess the good or the harm we have the potential to cause, the more we can be sure we’ll be steering our contact centers away from their darker days to become places which truly benefit everyone involved with our businesses.

Customer Experience, Work

Amazon, Wholefoods and the Future Of Human-Led Customer Service

Last week’s announcement that Amazon is taking over Wholefoods has sent shockwaves through the retail community, with experts predicting major changes in the way grocery chains run and operate. Markets reacted immediately with stock prices for major players like Target and Walmart being hit significantly. Plummeting stocks reflect the belief that this takeover will spell disaster for established grocery brands, and signal a period of disruptive change in a market that’s long been broadly stable.

So, what does this mean for customer service? Helpshift‘s CEO, Abinash Tripathy, has weighed in:

“We see Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods as part of a growing trend of digital and brick and mortar convergence,” said Tripathy. “From a customer service perspective we are excited about this development since we believe more and more stores will adopt the app philosophy of customer engagement. Similar to what Amazon is proposing with the Amazon Go stores, the shopping experience will be truly seamless. That means when you shop at your nearby store you won’t have to hunt down a customer service clerk to find something but rather your phone will tell you instead.”

It’s clear that customer service is in a real state of flux, with Tripathy’s forecasting of app-centered shopping experiences, as well as advancements from Chatbots to drone delivery promising to revolutionize the way that we all interact with companies.

But what do these advances all have in common? They’re all taking us further away from customer service delivered by people.

A Wholefoods Experience

I’m a Wholefoods shopper. Wandering around my local store recently, I ran into a little stand with a chap selling hummus and pesto.

Tasters were available, and since I can’t resist a freebie, I tried a little. Needless to say, it was all utterly transcendent. And the man at the stall was friendly, peppy and immensely grateful at being able to sell his homemade creations instore, making me all the more happy to buy several tubs.

Walking around a little more, I needed to find something, and failed. I couldn’t think what the proper name was for the thing that I wanted, or remember any brand names. My issue, as a new-ish Brit in Canada, is I’m still not totally sure what names some unfamiliar things have here. Let alone where to find them in the store!

I glanced at a customer service rep in the aisle and then thought twice. How on earth would I explain what I was looking for when I didn’t even know the name of what I wanted?

The rep caught my eye. “Can I help you, maam?”

“Erm, yes I need some things but I’m not sure what they’re called. They’re like… tiny plastic squeezy bottles with fruit stuff that you put in water?”

The rep looked at me quizzically for a second, then his face lit up. “Oh! I think I know what you mean! Like the little water flavoring bottles? I think Mio is one of the types we have…”

“Yes, brilliant, that’s them!” The rep led me to where I needed to go, we exchanged smiles, and I blustered away my embarrassment by chatting away then thanking him enthusiastically.

I did the rest of my shopping, then went to pay. Exchanged some cheery small talk with the cashier, paid up, and left.

Feel-Good Service

There’s a common theme throughout all these interactions – not once did I need to seek help outside of the store (through the internet, apps, or otherwise) to get, or do, what I needed. All the people in the store were ready and able to help me, and we all came out of the interaction with smiles on our faces.

Authentic customer service, delivered with kindness, inspires and uplifts. From the proud man selling his pesto, to the amused aisle walker, to the cashier who seemed genuinely pleased when I asked her how her day was going – interactions with people like this don’t just feel great, they’re proven to have a host of positive effects.

Now, consider:

  • What would customer service look like if there were no workers in stores?
  • If there was nobody to tell us about that great new pesto that would blow your culinary mind?
  • If we had to rely on apps to find what we needed, and couldn’t give our terrible vague descriptions to superstar reps who know just what we’re after?
  • Or if we were doomed to having to interact only with self-serve checkouts, with no human backup? (Truly, a seventh circle of hell situation.)

I admit, this future of customer service scares me.

It scares me because, in the 21st century, loneliness is an epidemic. Communities are eroding. And in a world where we can have thousands of friends on Facebook, actual human contact can be rare and unfamiliar for those who have lost touch with how to interact with others.

Thoughtful customer service acts as the glue that binds people. It can give you the smile that you need on a day where you’re feeling down. It can show the kindness and consideration that keeps people coming back, even when other places are more convenient, or less expensive. And for some people, it might be the only human contact they really have.

Personally, I’ll keep my apps for the rare situations when they’ll actually benefit me, and others around me – when I’m sick, in a bad mood or even, god forbid, horribly hungover – all situations which benefit from keeping myself to myself.

The rest of the time, I’ll take actual, human customer service any day.

I can only hope that as technology advances, we don’t totally forget the reasons why so many of us are passionate about customer service. It’s potential for us to build people up, to offer and receive help because helping feels good, and to make other’s lives even a little bit nicer.

In an age where screens are replacing faces, that’s the part of customer service that just can’t be replaced.