After almost two years of isolation due to lockdown, many of us ended up being burned out, anxious, or lonely. Empathy, human connection, and quality relationships are righteously the buzzwords in the modern business world. The time has come to rethink how the trend of feeling lonely as a customer will impact the CX industry.

According to Gartner’s latest research, by 2026, 75% of customers who call customer service and support organizations will do so out of loneliness, not because they have a customer service issue. This will affect service and support leaders’ priority of migrating customers to self-service and ensuring rep well-being.

In this short overview, we summarize the key points from the report and invite business leaders to seriously consider the ‘effect of a lonely customer’ both from the customer and employee point of view.

How will increased customer loneliness impact service support agents?

an image showing a black person and a word empathy.

Gartner research shows this trend will also impact customer service reps. For example, support agents may experience longer handle times as a result of customers trying to socialize, impacting organizations’ coaching and performance management efforts. Additionally, dealing with emotional customers is challenging and could lead to reduced rep well-being.

Lonely customers looking to fulfil their interpersonal needs through service organizations are unlikely to use self-service to resolve their issues, regardless of how well-designed the functionality is. Service and support leaders have long discussed the importance of emotional intelligence in the role and the need for reps to display soft skillssaid Emily Potosky, senior research principal in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice.

How to mitigate the effect of lonely customers?

Gartner predicts that by 2024 the top-cited reason customer service reps leave the service organization will be the unofficial emotional effort they need to perform with customers outside their official job duties.

Service and support leaders looking to mitigate the effect of lonely customers should consider the following:

  • Use speech analytics and sentiment analysis to identify customers who are calling because they are lonely.
  • Coach reps on how to identify customers who are using the service interaction for emotional support and socialization rather than true issue resolution.
  • Protect reps and their relationships with customers by empowering reps to empathetically exit conversations with these customers.
  • For extreme circumstances, ensure reps have the necessary mental health or suicide prevention resources to get customers to appropriate support.
  • Ensure the analysis of self-service failure points includes this trend; these customers will be difficult to migrate to self-service.
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