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Why Every Call Centre Boss Should Watch Disney’s Inside Out

A Disney Pixar animation probably won’t be the first movie to spring to mind when you are looking for inspiration to improve your business. The Wolf of Wall Street or The Social Network are more obvious examples of how Hollywood does business, and no doubt can show us how certain things should (and shouldn’t!) be done. However, I believe that the 2015 Disney film Inside Out is something that should be on the watch list of every call centre boss.

Why? Well, the story explores the story of a little girl, Riley, and the personifications of five emotions who live in her head – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust – and how they affect the way she behaves. It’s therefore a great way to demonstrate how our minds work, and the reasons your customers behave the way they do.

Interestingly, four out of five of the emotions in the film are negative ones, which goes some way to explaining how our brains are wired and why customers love complaining so much! In understanding these five emotions, you can influence the relationship you have with your customers, and use it as a starting point to examine the two ways that you can interact with customers – digital and human.

The human touch

An interpersonal relationship with customers should not be underestimated and call centre staff have a key role to play in this. While artificial intelligence continues to develop and be used to enhance the customer service experience, you’ll never be able to replace the real emotional connection that a human customer service agent can bring to an interaction. A human can add vital emotions such as empathy, creativity and passion, elevating the interaction to the kind of experience that lingers long in the mind of the customer and is worthy of recommendation.

The downside to this is that in dealing with customers solely in a human way, your staff have to face all the five emotions – four of which are negative! If a customer is displeased with the service they’ve been given, it’s your staff member who will feel the full force of their wrath. From a business point of view, it’s time consuming and expensive, and from a human resources point of view, it’s emotionally draining for the people involved. It certainly doesn’t bring them joy!

Digital advantages

So how can digital innovations be utilised by your company to interact more efficiently with customers? In the last ten years, the advent of smart technology and a more intelligent use of data means companies can be much more efficient in the way that they deal with customers. Businesses can be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, so customers can access services as and when they want, at a time that’s convenient to them.

Digital has also revolutionised the ways that companies interact with customers, and a level of automation combined with personalisation is not just possible, it is now almost expected by customers as standard. For a fraction of the cost of a human customer service agent, thousands of customers can be helped.

The rise of digital interactions also has the potential to neutralise the four negative emotions. When there is a slick interface and an interaction goes well, customers are happy with the way they’ve been dealt with, and sadness, fear, disgust and anger are dissipated before they even emerge.

The best of both worlds

Obviously there are advantages to both the human and digital approach, and so a successful business will utilise the best elements of both to create a customer service model that works for everyone.

Customer loyalty is no longer guaranteed, and in today’s fast-paced world, with short attention spans and ever-increasing competition, the savvy consumer doesn’t have to look very far to find a product that better meets their needs. In order to retain your customers you need to provide them with an experience or a product that matches their expectations and that also comes with a price, quality and convenience they want.

The answer lies in combining the human and digital experience of customer service. Use the efficiency that comes with a digital element along with the emotions of the human side, and you will create a company that stands out in the minds of your customers – for all the right reasons. The data and automation of the digital side of your business will be able to neutralise the negative emotions, while your human customer service agents can use their empathy, creativity and passion to create an emotional connection with consumers.

What you’re aiming for is an overlap between human emotions and digital operational excellence, which will then achieve an intimacy that your customers will appreciate. Getting this balance right is the key to the customer relationship of the future, and if your business doesn’t recognise this, then it risks being left behind. So next time you’re at home and your children ask to watch a movie, maybe suggest Inside Out, and you might even gain some inspiration you can apply to your business.

Professor Steven Van Belleghem

Professor Steven Van Belleghem

Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is an expert in customer focus in the digital world. He’s the author of the award-winning book When Digital Becomes Human. Follow him on Twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at

For more information, visit Steven’s website.

Published On: 27th Mar 2017
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