Time for an upgrade - Human to Human conversations still matter | Blue Sky

Time for an upgrade – Human to Human conversations still matter

In today’s economic environment, most businesses understand that if they prioritise their people, then profit will come. The problem is, they don’t know how to put them first.

Thankfully, there is a simple solution. To create a climate that values people before everything else, leaders need to invest in better technology. It’s just not the technology that they think.

Imagine for a moment that your CEO is being pitched a new piece of enterprise-wide software by the founder of a Silicon Valley start-up. According to the twenty-something in the hoodie, this software is responsible for the service and sales results of every best-in-class company, from Waitrose to Zappos. The technology is copyright-free, open source and compatible with all existing hardware. It comes with the most advanced AI ever invented, allowing it to continually learn, adapt and improve. The more you use it, the better it works. It is guaranteed to skyrocket your customer satisfaction and sales figures; and is proven to have a profound effect on internal retention, loyalty and efficiency too. Finally, the pitch concludes, if used correctly, this software even has the potential to transform your personal health, happiness and relationships.

If the twenty-something in the hoodie had the data to back up his claims, your CEO would be insane not to invest and that’s where the dream pitch ends because the technology we’re talking about here doesn’t come from Silicon Valley, and it’s more likely to be pitched by your Head of Customer Experience or Operations Director than a rising Californian AI star.

It’s not HTML-powered computer code. It’s human-powered Conversation Code.

And although it has been around for a few millennia, it’s currently undergoing a huge upgrade thanks to leaps forward in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, social anthropology and behavioural science.

The secret behind closing today’s customer experience gap is all about having smarter, better, more human conversations.

Simple as that.

The contrary thing is, our current obsession with impersonal technology makes human conversation more valuable than ever. When you think about conversations that happen over social media or through tools like WhatsApp or Twitter, it’s clear that the written and spoken word will remain important for years to come.

What will give humans the edge over machines?

We are not saying that good technology can’t augment human experience. Although, I have yet to experience a chatbot or IVR system that can replicate the ‘human’ connection that a great service person can deliver.

There are just a lot of things that machines can do better than human beings, and we should embrace it, particularly when they’re doing jobs that are unsafe for us to do.

There are two things that will prove hard to automate:

  • Emotion: Emotion plays an important role in human communication. It is critically involved in virtually all forms of nonverbal communication and in empathy.
  • Context: Humans can easily take context into account when making decisions or having interactions with others.

People who want to stay relevant will need to focus on skills and capabilities that artificial intelligence has trouble replicating. As machine learning continues to grow, we all need to develop new skills in order to differentiate ourselves. But which ones?

“Our ability to manage and utilise emotion and to take into account the effects of context are key ingredients of critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication, adaptive learning, and good judgment. It has proven very difficult to programme machines to emulate such human knowledge and skills, and it is not clear when (or whether) today’s fledgling efforts to do so will bear fruit. Skills like influence, persuasion, social understanding, critical and divergent thinking, and empathy are going to become differentiators as artificial intelligence and machine learning take over our other tasks” Source: (HBR)


These are the things that will give humans and edge over machines.

The tangibility bias

Recruitment and consultancy giant Korn Ferry interviewed 800 CEOs from multimillion and multibillion-dollar global organisations on their views concerning the future of work[1]. Sixty-three percent claimed that in five years, technology would be their firm’s greatest source of competitive advantage. Sixty-seven percent said that technology would create greater value in the future than people. Forty-four percent said that the prevalence of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence would make people “largely irrelevant” over the coming decade.

When they compared these views with the actual data about the value people bring to an organisation, the researchers concluded that these leaders were falling prey to a dangerous, if all-too-human, psychological illusion. “Leaders may be facing what experts call a tangibility bias,” declared Jean-Marc Laouchez, Korn Ferry’s Global Managing Director of Solutions. “Facing uncertainty, they are putting priority in their thinking, planning and execution on the tangible – what they can see, touch and measure, such as technology investments. Putting an exact value on people is much more difficult, even though people directly influence the value of technology, innovation and products.”

This tangibility bias is a phenomenon I’ve seen crop up time and again in organisations of all sizes and sectors over the years – and it’s definitely getting worse. Because investing in people feels more complex and nebulous than buying a chunk of software, leaders are throwing money at everything except the one thing that counts.

People have conversations; conversations create climate; climate is what determines the success of your customer experience. That’s the ‘magic technology’ that world-class service organisations use to stay ahead of their competitors, year after year. One big Board-level conversation might help, but it’s not going to drive real change. Change comes from having hundreds of human conversations, at every level of the organisation, every day, one at a time.

And although that process is complex, it is in no way abstract. It is something you can learn and replicate across your organisation.

[1] http://www.kornferry.com/institute/2030-the-very-human-future-of-work

How can we help?

At Blue Sky we’re on a mission to make organisations more human, one conversation at a time. We have dedicated teams that specialise in transforming the total customer experience particularly in improving the customer conversation (regardless of channel) and complaints handling. Blue Sky Service Performance Training is different because it is based directly on what the customer needs and wants from your business, not what you or we think they want.

So how do we do it? At Blue Sky we know how hard it is to create sustained behavioural change, but we also know through experience that when you create a burning need and motivation for change, people achieve extraordinary things.

We use our Culture Code together with Conversational Analytics to gain an insight into your customers and establish what are the specific top performing mindsets and skills that drive a great customer experience in your workplace context. We call this finding your Positive Deviants! We then build your Service Performance Training around the research results.

This ensures the training is not just customer-led but led specifically by your customers. Each learning-based activity is focused on delivering customer experience excellence as defined by your customers.

Our Conversational Analytics turns traditional TNA research on its head by determining how your customer will act now and, in the future, as opposed to what they have done in the past. This level of in-depth knowledge provides an inspiring lever to performance not seen within traditional customer service programmes.

Having clearly determined the Positive Deviant behaviours that drive CX improvement (NPS, CSAT and Customer Effort) our role is to develop the successful service behaviours and skills to enable the team to deliver sustained performance uplift.

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