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How AI and empathy coexist in customer service with Sarah Hatter

Customer service35 MIN READOct 25, 2023


There are certain qualities that a machine can never fully replicate in terms of customer service. 

We welcome Sarah Hatter to the pod, customer experience consultant, founder of ElevateCX and general champion of the human component of customer service. And we talk about just that – why the human component is the most valuable in support, and why it can never fully be replicated by AI. 

Listen in to learn:

  • How to differentiate yourself as someone empathetic, who can (and does) go the extra mile.
  • The significance of language and personalization in customer interactions.
  • Reasons to be optimistic about the future of customer experience.


This season, Grace takes the helm as your host – one of Klaus’ customer service content connoisseurs (alliteration only partly unintentional).

We encourage you to donate to Elevate Community Fund, launched by Sarah to help raise money for those in the CX community affected by layoffs.  

You can read the podcast transcript in full below!

Transcript: ​​S3E6

Grace: Hello! Today I am here with Sarah Hatter, who has joined me from much sunnier climes than where I am right now. 

Welcome Sarah, and thank you so much for being here for the third season of our podcast. I will let you introduce yourself and what you do. I think plenty of people listening will, if not know of you, have heard of what you organize.

Sarah: Yeah, I’ve been around a long time! I’m a customer experience consultant mostly, but I also run Elevate CX, which is a twice-yearly event for customer experience leaders. We’ve been doing that since October of 2012. So our 14th event is coming up pretty soon. It’s great. I love it. 

I also run a consulting company Cosupport, which I launched in January of 2011.

For a long time I was out there in the ether by myself shouting into space about customer experience and all of this stuff. And I think one of the best things about creating and finding a community of people who are in your industry, who love what you love, who have passion, like you have passion for customers and customer experiences is I’m not the only one. 

I found my people and we get to bring everybody together twice a year, 200 people in a room who all share that same passion for customer experience. So that’s what I do. I really focus on building out that community and building out our events, and making it a really special place for people who typically surprise and delight their own customers.

So I see them as my customers to these events and we want to do the same for them.

Grace: That’s fantastic. And what a wonderful community to have been part of building from the ground up as well.

Sarah: It’s been awesome to see it work. I know that’s such a weird way to put it. I’m looking back to when I started my company, Cosupport, and I was consulting on these SaaS apps and tech companies that are now ubiquitous in our nature, but at the time were very unknown.

Knowing that I got to play a very small part in helping them define what customer experience would look like going forward, and getting away from just a raw support from an email address in the wild, or not having a help center, or not doing video demos or whatever it was. We’ve really accelerated in the last 10, 15 years, the world of CX and the industry to what it is now, which is just a really incredible, viable part of our infrastructure.

Grace: I feel like now everyone wants to be known as the customer centric company, the customer obsessed company. And that’s very much an evolution, right?

Sarah: It is an evolution. I was working for a SaaS company for years and years and I was their only customer support person. And I remember about six months or so before I left to start my consulting company, I was told by the CEO, it doesn’t matter what customers think. 

That rings in the back of my head. He might have said it offhand. It might have just been a casual comment to him. But even if it being a casual comment, a casual offhand comment … to say that to someone about the people who are purchasing your product, who are making you wealthy, who are maintaining your company and keeping your people employed and giving you something to build those people … their thoughts do matter and they matter. And it matters more and more.

Now, I really hope that however many 12 or 15 years later, he’s come to the realization that what customers think really does matter. But even just knowing that this was in 2011, it is not far back in our past, right? We did not have what we have now. And it is remarkable and exciting. 

I love that there are so many products to choose from, now from companies that really understand we need to build tools for this industry. We need to build tools to help people do their jobs better, so that they can focus on being more human and not have to worry about efficiency and KPIs. All that boring stuff, right?

It’s been remarkable to start from having nothing other than just these template workflows for mimicking what customer service has looked across the board, for years and years, to then being part of this evolution that says, ‘no, we’re going to redefine what customer support and customer experience really is.’

To see people take what I’ve built and run with it, and add to it, and come up with better ideas than I even have. That’s just awesome to be a part of. So it’s a really exciting time in CX right now.

Grace: I think so. We talk a lot at Klaus, about there being this old fashioned view of seeing support as a cost center, instead of a profit center. Which I feel like everyone who is talking in our space is aware of, and yet it is yet to seep out into the wider world sometimes.

Sarah: We’re aware of it. This is actually a really interesting time to have that conversation. As I know we’ve seen mass layoffs in the customer success and customer support space alongside mass technological advancements with AI, with automations, with workflows, and all of these products, right? There’s this duality here that’s happening.

On one hand, companies are saying: ‘Customer experience matters. We’re going to build products for it.’ On the other hand, companies are saying: ‘We don’t need a human being to do this work. It can be done just as well by a robot.’ 

That’s not true.

We cannot replace humanity and people doing this job with just chatbots and robots, they have to supplement each other. 

So in one way, the old fashioned view is, ‘Oh, let’s outsource, let’s offshore, let’s pay someone $3 an hour to answer our calls. And, how do we do this as cheaply as possible?’ When it comes to customer experience, if you’re cheapening the investment that you are making in your support infrastructure, you’re cheapening the end result as well. You’re really doing the opposite of what you intend. You want to create this great, efficient customer experience with a robot that can answer you in 2.5 seconds. 

But if you lose, if you take out the humanity of that, you lose the people who are behind the checks and balances of everything. All you’re doing is just going back to those days when we would be punching zero furiously on a phone tree, trying to get to a person that doesn’t exist anymore.

Grace: That’s such a good analogy. I think if you don’t take the right mindset, what is absolutely in danger of happening is losing any kind of humanity or connection really, right?

Sarah: It’s a weird space because I’m like the archetypal customer. I buy a lot of stuff. I use it as part of my research: ‘What is this experience like? What is it like to buy something from them?’

I feel like I’ve seen a lot of those weird mistakes being made where people think we can just have an AI chatbot or an AI assistant or something, instead of hiring people to do this job. I was always an advocate for customers that don’t necessarily want to have to talk to a human being for a simple solution. We all know that, right? But there are other times when knowing that you’re chatting with a human being, knowing that there’s somebody else, an actual living breathing person on the end of the line – there’s a real sense of comfort to that. ‘You understand me, you can help me.’

Versus I feel like the vibe on the customer side is getting more aggressive towards the chatbots and the automated assistants that don’t particularly have that empathy structure and aren’t giving the answers that people want.

That’s only going to lead to frustration. That’s only going to lead to that symbolic pounding furiously on zero, trying to get through to someone.

Grace: And we’ve all been in that situation as well where we just want to speak to a human being who understands, who can actually listen, and understand the nuances of what we’re going through.

Sarah: And also take responsibility for it. That’s something that we forget how important that is to the human experience, when you are frustrated or you have a problem or something’s broken, even if you broke it. Having someone take on responsibility from “I’m so sorry this happened” to “let me actually jump in and fix this for you”. Or, “Oh, I know what the problem is.”

That role is elemental to humanity, right? It’s elemental to our relationships and how we view each other, whether I can extend help to you and take responsibility, take something off your plate. That’s the real surprise and delight. It’s not free shipping and it’s not like stickers that you send in your packages, or something like that.

It’s the element of “I’m stepping up and stepping in to resolve this with you as part of your team. There’s no combative nature and I fully understand you.” It’s really important that we don’t try to replace that with just, “Did that answer your question?”

Grace: I also think we’ll get to the point, or we’re probably at that point, where people probably expect a bot at the initial stage of the conversation. If it’s a very simple equation or a transactional kind of conversation. Then of course this is acceptable if it’s efficient.

Whereas I think there is something to be said as well, if someone is in that bind where their issue is so complex, where they need to have that recognition. They also want to know that the company is invested enough not to just throw machines at them, but to actually be investing in their team.

Sarah: And investing in making sure that those employees are happy, making sure that they have the tools that they need to do their job efficiently. A really good example of this is the airline industry, especially in the United States. The airline industry is the least advanced around the world.

They’re using old systems, they’re using old proprietary software, they’re using a lot of in house cobbled together shortcuts and all that stuff. And as we’ve seen in the last six months, maybe even the last year or so, when meltdowns happen, something happens environmentally or externally, we are not equipped to deal with that. And that’s a situation where somebody wants a human being to take responsibility and to apologize and to help them through it. And instead, what we’re seeing is a lot of these airlines and a lot of these systems are putting you into a phone tree or giving you to a chatbot that isn’t going to extend the kind of empathy you want to really quell your frustration and to resolve the situation.

I’ve been saying this for 15 years: customer experience is not prescriptive. 

I can’t just do something I see somebody else doing and think it’s going to work perfectly for me as it does for them. I can’t just say “Oh, my car insurance company uses a chatbot. I should use a chatbot.” And I just mimic what they do. 

Everything that you do in your customer experience and building it out, you really have to determine who’s my customer? What are their needs? What are their wants? How do they communicate with me? What language do they use? How am I going to reference that back? What efficiencies do I want to have? Where can I add, supplement AI or a chatbot, but not remove humans from that space? You have to be really thoughtful about this.

So often, especially in these large legacy brands, people just want to take the shortest avenue towards the cheapest result.

Grace: Towards what is seen as the most cost effective. Whereas actually if you analyze what good customer service does, it plays a huge part in retention – or churn, on the other side of the coin. So therefore, yes, you are saving in the short run, but at what cost, literally?

Sarah: And also reputationally. That’s something that a lot of people are not factoring in. Customers talk about their negative experiences far more than they talk about their good experiences. And if the negative experience gets someone so amped up to tell this terrible story, that’s going to resonate with those people that they have influence with.

People will go to social media and we see it every single day, ranting about a bad experience. And if you look at those, you put them all in a big whiteboard and you start to connect the dots, you realize that failure always has to do with a really bad experience outside of human beings.

It’s a phone tree. It’s a “we can’t get through. We’re on hold for an hour. We’re going back and forth. The auto reply is only going to tell us that we’re going to get a reply in three days.” We’ve all kind of been through this. We all see it happening.

So what you said is absolutely, astutely, perfectly right. Is that you think that you’re saving money now, and it looks really great on this quarter’s balance sheet. But we’re going to see that cycle through in the next six to eight months, as people are no longer loyal to your brand.

Grace: I completely agree. I think it’s very poignant that you mentioned the airline industry because I think everyone has their negative customer service story. Not everyone has their positive one. 

My negative one involves a European airline and me being stranded at an airport with a young child who was three months old at the time and they couldn’t find my booking. A complete lack of connection, because you had one person telling you to talk to here, that person eventually a week later said, “Oh no, actually it should have been this person you spoke to.” Which is that completely fractured system or lack of support system – it means that it’s an airline that I’ll probably badmouth for the next decade.

Sarah: As you should. I hate to be that person who’s pitchforks about this, but it doesn’t get through to them otherwise. The bottom line is the only way that these large corporations and even some of these startups and growth stage companies that we’re seeing, you’d only get through to them with the bottom line with that reputational damage. 

I think when you’re starting to tell this story, you’re like, “I was stranded.” That’s it. That’s all you need to say. Everybody else can fill in the blanks because we’ve all had those similar stories. We know where that story is going. I think it has greater ramifications throughout our entire society, how we have bad consumer experiences and what that means for the future. 

If you’re building a product right now, customer facing or D2C or whatever, I think it’s your responsibility to really start engaging and saying how do we make this an empathetic human situation where we take responsibility? Where we are making it very clear that we want the best for our customers at whatever cost, because that cost will be recouped down the line, that cost will be recouped as you being a trusted brand, having great reputational prowess, people sharing and talking about it.

I just think that we’re very short sighted right now when it comes to how we’re thinking about CX as a whole.

Grace: I think that’s very astute because I think it also comes from a feeling of fear, because the AI hype has been really gathering a lot of momentum. We’re starting to see it slow down, I think, because conversations like this are happening. But it’s also part of the reason that it’s such an important topic to talk about in the space of a career, because of course it does mean that there are positives and negatives to this. 

Some of these tools are fantastic, and some of these tools will work in people’s favor as a service worker, and will hopefully help them be better at what they do. However, it hopefully won’t make them fear for their actual job. Because there should still be a lot of emphasis on empathy. Because that’s essentially what people are looking for, isn’t it?

Sarah: They’re looking for humanity and the greatness of humanity is shown through our empathy. Through our care for people, through our how’s your day going, the genuine interest in who people are. 

I feel like I’ve been hearing the AI discussion for a very long time, and let’s be real, AI is not new, it’s 30 years old. AI is in everything that we do. It’s not just helping us find solutions in a help center and preventing an email from hitting a person’s desk. It’s all over the place. So it’s not a new thing. What’s new about it is the velocity that we’re seeing it really being integrated into so many of our once rigid processes.

So as I say when I coach CX teams, ‘You cannot chain a person to a desk in an email farm or a call center and expect them to be their best selves day after day, being reactive to just a flood of emails or phone calls.’ That’s never going to work in your favor. What is going to work in your favor is really making their work environment and their workplace someplace that they love to be, that where they feel appreciated, seen and heard and validated and given a career path through support. That trickles down into how they treat your customers.

The other thing that we know, and I learned this maybe 15 years ago from Ben McCormack, who’s just a rock star coach on all things CX, is you have to give your support team really good thresholds of the work that they can do, how long they can do it, getting them out of the queue. He calls them extracurricular activities. Which is a pun, it’s a dad joke, it’s all things, but when you do that, you have that structure for your team, then you get to really work on adding a chatbot that hits that low hanging fruit. Or adding some sort of responsive search on your help center that prevents someone from saying, Oh, I didn’t find it because I spelled it wrong. And then writing an email about it that’s going to take, just one more email on my team’s desk.

You want to structure your use of AI that it supplements. And that it helps your team be more efficient. Metromile is a great company to use for this. They’re an insurance company. I’ve been with Metromile for years. I love them. I think it’s just a really awesome product.

However, if you need to get a hold of someone on the customer support team, It is a difficult process. You’re forced to go through the chatbot on the website. You cannot call them directly. You cannot email them directly. If you do those things, you are pushed back to the chat bot. If the chat bot can’t answer your question, you have to wait then for the next agent, sometimes 15, 20 minutes.

That’s just a bad experience. Gatekeeping this behind this solution that isn’t efficient or as effective as a human being is a bad use of that technology. It’s a bad implementation and bad use of whatever these things are meant to supplement and meant to help us at. So I think so many people just do that again because they’re trying to decrease the amount of people contacting them, but then they don’t do anything to make it easier for people to get the right answers, especially to those low hanging fruit. And then they end up with a completely burnt out team who’s answering questions that should have been answered by an automated process because the automated process is not implemented well.

Grace: I think that’s very true, though, because otherwise you end up with a team that’s actually dealing with customers who are more frustrated than they were from the get-go. Their issue has been amplified through badly implemented tools or bots, that on the face of it is meant to be helping them. We talk a lot about this perfect setup and proactive support doing what it does best, but the issue is if companies haven’t done their due diligence.

There needs to be due diligence with checking what bots are doing and checking the conversations that they are having. At the moment it’s like, okay it’s set up, so let’s leave it there and see what happens.

Sarah: And that’s never going to be the great solution. It’s never going to be, Oh, it’s done. It’s out of the box. Kodif is one of our sponsors for Elevate CX and they build a very awesome, easy to implement chatbot. And walk you through step by step how to do this, how to build it, how to make it work for your team.

But the thing I love about them is that they are always in pursuit of the evolution of things. So not only are they adding to their product, making their product even more useful and more efficient, but they were reminding teams through training: you can also do this, or you can do this, or you can teach them really how to create something that’s customized for them, for their needs and for their audience.

So if you’re not doing that, and again, this comes down to what your leadership is foisting on you, you’re never going to have happy customers and you’re never going to have happy agents. You have to invest in them equally. You have to invest in making sure your team knows ‘Hey, we care about you and your work life.’

And we care about the tools that you use and whether they work for you and whether it helps. with your job load and makes you want to come to work every day or makes you want to quietly live in despair and hope the day’s over, which we’ve all seen the customer experience, customer support, they are under served teams.

They’re underpaid, they’re under validated, they’re just not really considered as important as they really are. And so when you’re looking at companies too, especially companies that have these amazing experiences, you really have to look at what they are doing for their actual team.

What are they doing to keep their team happy? Because the team eventually is going to keep your customers happy. And if the customer experience team and customer support team is burnt out, doesn’t really care and just is there to be reactional and get the job done, that’s what customers are going to experience from them.

So I think one of the things about AI and one of the frustrations I have with all the buzz about it is like you said, people are acting as if this is just like the solution, the thing that we’ve been waiting for. But AI is never going to feel empathy. AI can never feel excited. It will never have desires or dreams or goals.

It will never have that grief that they experience that leads them to be a wiser, more empathetic and sympathetic person. They’re never going to have the excitement of doing something right on the first try and how that motivates them to continue to try new things and to get better at them. AI will never have those great parts of our humanity. So if you start to replace that with just a bot that answers your question, you’re going to see less and less of customers engaged with your product and your brand.

Grace: I really love that take because I think it leads on to something else, it’s not just about replacing agents with bots. It’s also about, ‘okay let’s look at the much wider lens and see what AI can do to help us be better at being humans.’ People are able to use these to further their career in ways that are not just ‘okay, we’ll throw a bot at it.’

I do a lot of writing in my role, and I am recognizing so much more the people who are using ChatGPT for their LinkedIn posts, who are using it for their emails, and who aren’t in any way engaging with it properly. Who are just going ‘oh, this is a really quick solution’, instead of thinking ‘okay, how do I use this?’

Sarah: We saw this happen ten years ago when people just started sending out stock saved replies to every issue. We saw this happen when you’d get these terrible auto replies that Zendesk wrote and you never bothered to update. So we’re seeing it all happen again. So when I talk about this it isn’t a new phenomenon. This is laziness in action. This is inattentiveness in action. This is inefficiencies in action, right? I think that we need to tackle that. We need to tackle it just like we did with the saved replies. Someone’s got to stand up and say No, language is key. Language is power. Let’s be better about this.

ChatGPT – I’ve used it to break out my brain block because like you, I do a lot of writing and sometimes you just need a helpful structure. But I… I would be an absolute moron if I copied and pasted whatever it said and sent it out to 4, 000 people on my mailing list acting like this was sincerely from my heart, when I know who I am.

So I think the novelty is going to wear off. I think that people will be embarrassed of how much they relied on artificial intelligence and ChatGPT to certain points. It’s great that it’s been an awesome experiment for people. We’re seeing what it can do, but it can be done better and we need to not use it as a replacement.

We need to use it as a supplement to the work that we’re doing.

Grace: This goes for customer service too, because well, in every business, you don’t want to sound the same as everyone else. A lot of different companies will rightfully have different tones that they want their agents to use in certain circumstances for certain customers, but also depending on, of course, their product.

And B2B is going to be different from B2C. And I worry as well that if there is an overuse in AI across the board, then it’s just going to be very homogenous and very boring. Taking out that humanity and that personality is just going to further distance us from customers,

Sarah: Let’s take the machine back to 2014. I wrote a book called the Customer Support Handbook. And in that book, I talk about how you have to build a persona for your customer experience team to use that reflects your brand. Just as you’re saying, I really drilled down into some of this old language.

‘We apologize for the inconvenience.’ 

‘Thank you for your feedback.’

That is my number one least favorite statement of all time in all history since people have begun to utter words.

Everybody’s using that stock reply. Everybody’s using the same things. So it doesn’t have meaning anymore. I don’t believe you. And I’m petty enough that if I get that response, if I get a, we apologize for the inconvenience or thank you for your feedback, I will respond with a list of here’s five other sentences you could have said to me that will work better in diffusing the situation, making me feel appreciated and valued as a customer and wanting me to come back and engage with your brand again.

This was almost 10 years ago that I was talking about this and now we’re seeing it on the opposite end where it’s not just people who lack creativity in customer support or people who lack like The mindset to have their own persona in the written word, but now we’re dealing with computers that we have to train to have like better creative writing skills, and that’s just a wasted effort, right?

It’s so much easier to train human beings how to use their empathy well, than it is to teach a computer how to be an empathetic, sentient being. It’s just not going to happen. It’s not worth it.

But yes, to your point it’s incredibly important. Language is free. It’s accessible to everyone. It’s malleable. It’s fungible. It’s something that you can use in so many ways to present who you are as a brand and what you care about. So I highly recommend people start, like you said, using these tools as frameworks, to give us frameworks, to start helping us understand what we want to say and put it out there, but then use our own words to really make an impact.

Grace: We talked a lot about the past but do you envisage, are you relatively optimistic then about the future? Do you think that this is just a cycle we’ll go through? Or do you think this is something that there’s going to be a cycle we’re going to probably shed some skin, but the good stuff will hopefully remain to help people who are in service?

Sarah: Listen I don’t know if it’s clear from my personality, but I’m a very optimistic person, probably to my detriment. I’m not sure. That’s what makes me really good at the job that I do, coaching people and cheering them on and doing great in times when it’s really hard to be nice to customers.

There’s a statistic a friend of mine shared the other day: 225,000 people in the tech industry, mostly in customer experience roles, have been laid off since January. Those are huge numbers. I have been around the block long enough, especially in tech, to know that these cycles happen. We’ve seen this before.

We haven’t seen it so much in the CX industry like we’re seeing it now because 10 years ago, there wasn’t a CX industry. There weren’t people who were doing these jobs, as a career path, and it wasn’t as validated as it is now. Yeah, shedding skin is a great way to see it. We’re already seeing it now in our community.

It’s remarkable how many people are losing jobs left and right. And I think that part of this problem is overextended companies, the CEO level, the board level, they made a lot of really bad financial mistakes in the last two, three years that are catching up with them. So this is where they’re going to try to recoup that.

But what I’m also seeing, which is surprising to me, is the number of roles that are reopening or being reposted as a way to consolidate responsibilities. So we are seeing companies that laid off 300 people in February posting those jobs already. Now, the unfortunate part is getting through those resume algorithms and hiring algorithms. We should have talked about that as opposed to what AI is doing to really mess things up for people.

But having a community like we do Elevate CX, it’s all people in leadership roles who all can help each other find those jobs, whatever it is, maybe even reassess what kind of job that they want to do. Maybe create new roles within some of these companies for CX roles that they didn’t have before.

Again, it’s absolutely possible to replace your entire support staff with automations and AI. You absolutely can do that. Most of these companies who think that’s the path forward are going to find quickly that it’s not, just for the reasons we’ve talked about so many times already on this podcast.

But I think that we’re gonna come out of this with a very different definition of how we view customer experience as a part of an organization. So right now, it’s still we’re back into that cycle where it’s a cost center with something to really easily cut. I think in the upcoming years, we’re gonna find that it’s something to really build on, and it’s going to be more akin to how we view product right now, as far as the importance and the responsibility there.

We just started, too, a community fund, the Elevate Community Fund. Please go there. We are raising funds for our CX community members affected by layoffs and job uncertainty. And I really want people to share it and be involved. And if you need help, please apply to the fund right there on the webpage.

Thank you for letting me plug that.

Grace: Of course. We will of course put the link as well in podcast notes too, because I think it’s really important to draw attention to the fact that this is actually genuinely affecting people’s careers. It’s fine to talk about, in a few years time what will happen, there’s a reason we’re also talking about it right now.

Sarah: Yeah, and I think right now the thing that people can do is draw attention to it and really draw attention to the companies that are doing these layoffs and who they’re hitting in those layoff cycles, too. You can go to, which is a really good resource. If you work for a publicly traded company, you can also search.

There’s a database where companies are required by law to state if they are going to be doing mass layoffs 30 days out, you can actually see if your company is on that list.

The other thing was we need to hold a lot of these companies responsible for being a part of the CX community, building products for them and, whether or not they’re going to support that community in like the hardest times by donating, by sharing, by, by being a part of solutions, and holding companies that are building AI tools responsible for making sure that they’re not marketing these as a cheap and efficient way to cut your entire staff because that’s not the correct use of technology.

That’s not how technology needs to be. We need to be led into our future with technology that is alongside us, not replacing us. We’ve all seen terminator, right? We know where this can go.

Grace: To Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’m talking to somebody who lives in California, so I guess that has even more resonance then.

Sarah: I don’t want the Terminator answering support emails for me, right? That’s not where we want to go in this. Robocop, maybe, but no, not the Terminator

Grace: I’ll go to our quick fire round then, some of which we’ve already covered of course, but to put it succinctly then what practical advice do you have for those who have a career in customer service now – or who are entering the industry?

Sarah: Okay, so if you’re entering the customer support, customer experience industry, or if you’re just starting out in your career, diversify what you bring to the table as much as possible. Take a really easy course, a 19-dollar course about product management, and learn how to speak to your product team. Make friends with your engineering team and be curious about the job that they do. It’ll make your job easier going forward.

And also really start to be bold about the practices that you see in place around your company because it represents what they think about customers and it represents what they think about your team. So push back on language that’s gross and old and, you know, not friendly or empathetic.

Be the person on your team who’s willing to be friendly and keep that person on the phone a little bit longer if they need to, or acknowledge something in a personal situation that they’ve mentioned in an email and be human about it. It will make your job better for you to express your humanity as much as you possibly can and feel safe doing that.

It’ll make your job better. You will enjoy it so much more. Customer facing roles are emotionally, intellectually depleting. They’re very hard to do day after day, if you don’t feel like you’re in a supportive position. So my number one advice is just to really lean into that curiosity and humanity.

Grace: Absolutely. I love that. We had that before. And I think that’s very true because it also speaks to the customer facing team being more appreciated company wide as well. Because if you are also building those connections with product, with engineering, then you are also putting yourself in that limelight in a good way. You’re proving worth.

Sarah: You’re proving your worth and you’re showing that you are a well rounded individual. You’re not just someone to be reactionary to chats or to emails or to phone calls. You are curious and you want to learn and especially you want to maintain really good relationships. I think I want to say the same thing for product teams.

They should be really invested in customer experience. I want to say the same thing to engineering teams. They should be really invested in customer experience and be curious about it. But often it’s going to take the more extroverted of the bunch to make that first step, right.

Grace: I think that’s very astute, to recognize.

The final question, which I think was almost the first one that you did answer, but to round off this episode: is AI coming for our jobs?

Sarah: Yeah. It’s not. For the right companies, it’s not. For the right people, it’s not. And again, this gets back to like really pushing, being bold and curious about implementing anything like this. What is it going to do for us? How are we going to use it? What is its point?

And if you have, if you’re in a situation where you’re a decision maker on a CX team and you’re the one implementing a chat bot, it’s your responsibility to tell your team the purpose of that.

It’s your responsibility to be very transparent with them, the purpose of this is to cut salaries and to cut headcount, is the purpose of this, to make your job easier and better by hitting some of that low hanging fruit and keeping someone from emailing me about how to reset their password.

That is really the role. And the more that we do that and collectively, as teams, start setting these boundaries on how we want to use this technology and what it’s there for, what its purpose is. The more resistance we’re going to have when someone comes in from the top down, who does not answer to support email in their life and says, you need to kill five people. We got a chat bot.

So in, in that realm, again. It’s buzz wordiness right now. It’s a novelty right now. It is not sustainable. And it is not sustainable to continue to reduce headcount, actual human beings, with some sort of robot that is never going to be able to do the same kind of job.

Grace: Thank you. What a wonderful note to end on because I think that’s certainly a very positive one.

Sarah: I hope so. It’s hard. These are hard times. We’re going to just say it. It’s unprecedented, right? 2. 0! It’s unprecedented times 2. 0. But it cannot be sustainable. It just can’t. We have that to hope for.

Grace: Thank you. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. Honestly, you’ve given us a wealth of information to go and digest now, I think. So thank you.

Sarah: Thank you for having me. Thank you for Klaus, for all you do. I really appreciate you being part of our community. It’s great work that you do.

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