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The Empathy Machine

Using AI to Guide Employees Toward Better Customer Care

Shep Hyken interviews Joel Makhluf. They discuss the need for more awareness and empathy among customer service agents and how AI and technology can provide that.

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Top Takeaways:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is a powerful tool. When used correctly to support customer service representatives and call center agents, it can help humans be “more human.”
  • It’s important to identify the behaviors that annoy customers the most over the phone, whether it’s talking too fast or too slow, interrupting them, speaking in monotone, etc.
  • AI platforms now have the ability to search for and recognize the “empathy cue,” which occurs when a customer is in a heightened state of emotion and therefore needs more empathy from the agent.
  • Pay attention to the nonverbal cues your customers give you. It’s not just what they say, but how they say it that matters.
  • Because AI is able to handle many easy, basic calls, the calls that reach contact center workers tend to be more complicated and more stressful. This leads to agents experiencing cognitive overload and “compassion fatigue.”
  • AI technology and software can guide contact center agents through these pitfalls in real-time, empowering them to take better care of customers through empathy.
  • Identify your best-performing employees and mimic their behavior. Train the rest of your employees to that exemplary behavior. This will result in a more consistent customer experience.
  • Remember that everyone has bad days, even your top performers. Be there to empower and coach your employees through those bad days.
  • “Automation fatigue” is settling in across industries. There needs to be a balance between humans and AI. AI is great for handling simple tasks, but customers crave empathy when dealing with their most personal problems.


“Model the behavior of your best employees and coach the rest of your employees to that behavior.” – Joel Makhluf

“Strive for a more consistent customer experience with empathy baked into the formula.” – Joel Makhluf

“The way something is said—not just what is said—is an indicator of somebody’s true emotional state.” – Joel Makhluf


Joel Makhluf is the Director of Demand Generation at Cogito, an artificial intelligence company that provides real-time conversational guidance and analytics.

 Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning keynote speaker, and your host of Amazing Business Radio.

This episode of Amazing Business Radio with Shep Hyken answers the following questions … and more:

  1. What should the balance be between AI and human support?
  2. How can AI empower my employees?
  3. How can empathy help my customer service?
  4. Do customers crave automation?
  5. How can I best train my employees?

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