An artist

The art of customer service: Lessons from history’s master painters


Mark de Bruijn, EMEA marketing director at Sprinklr, takes inspiration from a unique source – exploring how the intricacies of some of the world’s great paintings can be applied to the customer service sector.

20th Jun 2023

A masterpiece is defined as ‘work done with extraordinary skill’. True customer service is an art masterpiece. Art is experiential and emotional – core components of excellent customer service.

From the Mona Lisa to The Starry Night, art masterpieces live in our minds for the emotion they make us feel. Just like art, the best customer service is about making emotional connections with customers.

The need to create customer service masterpieces is increasingly important as businesses face rising customer expectations.

In this piece, we explore what we might learn from the artistic masters of the past to deliver masterful customer experiences today. With digital transformation taking hold across all walks of life – from banking services to streaming – organisations need to adopt robust customer experience strategies to thrive in this challenging environment.

Emotionally engaged customer experiences

The Laughing Boy by Frans Hal perfectly captures the genuine smile of a young boy, to which you cannot help but smile back. Similarly, authentic, emotionally engaged, positive experiences are vital in establishing customer loyalty. In every interaction, brands must consider how that experience can drive emotion – consistently creating positive, personalised experiences.

For example, our research shows that while 75% of consumers expect consistent interactions across channels, 58% feel they’re not communicating with one company but with separate departments. This polarisation is furthered when brands do not have a unified view of customers due to customer data in fragmented silos across tools and teams.

Effective use of data means responding to customers as individuals and creating the emotional reactions you want: delight, joy, gratitude, and happiness.

Our research found that 82% of firms say CX is a top priority. Still, despite this commitment, “they struggle to get clean and relevant data, derive useful insights, and translate those insights into real-time and strategic CX improvements”.

Clearly, in today’s data-driven CX landscape, the need for data that delivers actionable insight to drive authentic engagement is no laughing matter.

Innovation in challenging times

Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson is not just a lesson in masterful advertising but in innovation. Commissioned as an advertisement for an ambitious doctor, it shows an innovative approach to human dissection using the latest technology. However, the piece is also one of the first to deviate from the traditions of group portrait painting, drawing the viewer into Rembrandt’s innovative style.

In CX, technological innovation is essential to a brand’s survival. Traditional customer service capabilities are antiquated, with digital-first customer service now a core expectation. Whether through live chat, social, messaging, email, SMS, voice, or video, companies must focus on technology that supports appropriate proactive care, self-service, and agent-assisted care.

Leaders can learn from Rembrandt's innovative style – ensuring they stay abreast of the latest innovations in the CX tech space.

For example, increased use of social media is leaving some brands with a high volume of conversations where organisations struggle to respond in a reasonable time.

AI can help identify where customer issues do and do not require agent involvement. Simultaneously, consolidating legacy tools into one system can deliver data and insights to agents in a convenient location, eliminating the need to switch between systems, saving agents’ time and meeting customer demand for quick, unified experiences.

Consider that over nine-in-ten CX leaders say their organisations are missing key features from their customer experience management (CXM) platform. Easy innovation wins are being left on the table.

Letting customers light their own way

In Ruben’s masterful depiction of a young boy seeking to light his own candle, we have a perfect example of the eagerness of customers to solve issues for themselves as quickly and efficiently as possible.

For example, 90% of customers expect immediate answers to their queries, with nearly seven-in-ten customers happy to self-serve to resolve their issues rather than engage with an agent.

Automated support powered by AI provides just this. Modern technology helps guide customers quickly through online communities, knowledge portals, and chatbot support powered by conversational AI — leading to faster resolutions, happier customers, and agents who are free to focus on more high-impact issues.

Such options provide quick solutions to customers and bring agents’ workloads down – improving both customer and employee experience.

Using AI to uncover contextualised CX

Like Jan Steen’s highly layered portrayal of a chaotic family mealtime, delivering outstanding CX requires the breaking down of complex pictures to provide meaningful insight.

Steen’s work contains many hidden messages that it takes a highly expert eye to decipher. Similarly, when you take customer data, it is hard to derive any real learning.

Artificial intelligence can enable customer service to contextualise massive amounts of data and nuance, and provide those insights to drive meaningful customer service.

It can help understand what the customer is going through, whether they are happy, frustrated, or sad, and, more importantly, how brands can address those problems proactively. Only AI can sift through all the multiple channels of data that today’s CX creates to help prioritise when, where and how to engage with customers.

Now too, conversational AI is playing a much larger role. However, chatbots vary enormously. Some offer basic capabilities – for instance, matching conversation pairs and basic responses to keywords.

However, these often deliver clunky customer experiences. Understanding the nuances of conversation (intent, language, slang, dialect and messaging customs) is essential for a smooth experience.

Sophisticated AI chatbots are an always-on, expert guide, delivering insightful service to the customer and providing crucial, actionable data to the company. In that way, they will soon become synonymous with superior CX.

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