3 Ways to Put the Human Element into Customer Experience

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Focusing on people first is an obvious concept for customer experience (CX), right? Unfortunately, life is full of so many distractions that the human element can often get lost. Now is the time to refocus on instilling humanity into our customer experience efforts.


Every year, Temkin Group identifies a theme that we believe deserves the attention of the entire CX community. We focused on empathy in 2014, employees in 2015, emotion in 2016, and purpose in 2017. Continuing in this vein, we labeled 2018 as “The Year of Humanity.”

With all of the discord and tension throughout the world, it seems like a good time for all of us to refocus on what’s most important: our collective humanity. This might seem like a lofty goal, but it only takes small changes in how we interact with each other. The first step is to better understand each other.


To place the focus on our collective humanity, it’s important to first understand what drives the actions and behaviors of the people with whom we interact. Everyone has some understanding of other people, but it’s helpful to keep in mind that we are all:

Intuitive. We make most decisions based on mental short cuts.

Self-centered. We view the world from our own perspective.

Emotional. We remember experiences based on how they make us feel.

Motivated. We look for opportunities to satisfy intrinsic needs.

Social. We desire to make connections with other people.

Hopeful. We flourish when we envision a positive future.

When it comes to our individual interactions, we can raise the level of humanity by simply doing three things: (1) embracing diversity, by not only respecting our differences but also finding ways to appreciate each other as wonderfully unique individuals; (2) extending compassion, by tuning into the condition of the people around us and caring about their well-being; and (3) expressing appreciation, by seeking opportunities to look for and acknowledge the positive aspects of the world and the people around us.


How are we translating this focus into the world of customer experience? By creating a concept that we call Humanize CX, which we define in the following way: Thinking about people first in every activity and endeavor.

It’s tempting to look at a business through the lens of technology or process, but those are just conduits to the ultimate objective: people. Since organizational success is driven by engaged employees and loyal customers, it’s important to focus on the underlying needs and behaviors of these human beings.

To humanize CX, companies should strive to adopt these three principles:

Act with purpose. Although human beings respond to external stimuli like bonuses and coupons, they are truly motivated by the desire to find meaning in their lives. So we need to enlist people’s commitment and loyalty by sharing the purpose of our efforts and understanding the purpose that motivates other people.

Cultivate deep empathy. Dynamics within organizations tend to reinforce an internal and myopic perspective. So we need to break the status quo by proactively uncovering and satisfying the needs of other people.

Create positive memories. What human beings experience is not what they remember, and what they remember drives their loyalty. So we need to concentrate our energies on the moments that have the most emotionally significant impact on people.

Hopefully you’re inspired to improve humanity in both your individual interactions and in your professional capacity. If we all do just a little bit, then we can collectively make 2018 the Year of Humanity.

Bruce Temkin is customer experience transformist and managing partner of Temkin Group, a research and consultancy firm focused on enterprise-wide customer experience transformation. He is also the chair and cofounder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org) and author of the blog Customer Experience Matters (experiencematters.wordpress.com).

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