Can Soft Skills Be the Hero that Cures the Loneliness Epidemic?

Learning to build a culture of connection is more important than ever.  Training employees to develop the people skills necessary to build relationships is essential to their and your customer’s well-being. The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, released an advisory of how the “epidemic of loneliness and isolation” is negatively impacting millions of people across the country. “In recent years, about one-in-two adults in America reported experiencing loneliness,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic cut off so many of us from friends, loved ones, and support systems.” It’s not surprising the Surgeon General has declared loneliness an epidemic.Relationship Building Training To Address Lonliness, The DiJulius Group

The research on this public health crisis is sobering. Studies have demonstrated that loneliness and isolation are linked to major health conditions: inflammation, immunity changes, pain, insomnia, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide, higher risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, addiction, dementia, and premature death.  Including people skills and relationship building as part of your customer service training, gives your team tools to begin to address these issues.

The report shares that social connection is as essential to humanity as food, water, or shelter. All people are wired for human connection. “Given the profound consequences of loneliness and isolation, we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make the same investments in addressing social connection that we have made in addressing tobacco use, obesity, and the addiction crisis,” Murthy says in his advisory. He believes “the social fabric of our nation” can be repaired if all members and segments of society band together. This would include people and their families, the communities in which they live and the places in which they work and worship, educational institutions, healthcare systems, tech companies, and public health organizations removing the stigma around loneliness and improving how our policies and culture act in response to it. As leaders, we need to make broader efforts to build a culture of connection, healthy relationships, and collective well-being.

Today’s Illiterates: High Tech, Low Touch

There are relationship building skills we can develop, however, and of all these, there is one that, when mastered, will without question have the biggest impact on us personally and professionally. That skill is the ability to build an instant connection with others. This is way more than mere communication skills. It is the ability to communicate with a purpose—to build your community at every stage of your life. Building a relationship with someone else, whether an acquaintance, friend, customer, coworker, or a total stranger, is far and away the most important skill every human being should be taught at an early age and then should hone throughout life. This skill should be taught at home, in school from pre-kindergarten to graduate school, in social infrastructure such as libraries, parks, and playgrounds, and, of course, in business. Unfortunately, it is rarely taught in any formal way, yet it is so important for our collective health.

Today we all have a relationship with technology. We are living in the “digital disruption era” in which technology has provided us with unprecedented advances, information, knowledge, instant access, and entertainment. We have computers, mobile phones, tablets, the internet, social media, apps, and artificial intelligence—conversational AI assistants like Siri and Alexa, chatbots, virtual concierges, facial recognition, and self-driving cars.

*RelatedHow the Touch Screen Age is Negatively Impacting our Customer Service

However, as convenient as these advances make our lives, they also have changed the way we communicate, behave, and think and have led to a dramatic decline in our people skills. They have contributed to a crisis of loneliness, and as a society we are now relationship disadvantaged. We no longer become curious about others or eager to engage in conversations. We spend less time with friends via in-person interactions. The younger generation primarily communicates electronically, and the explosion of e-commerce means we go out less and less. And when we do, there’s a marked lack of social cohesion. An everyday life example is exchanging pleasantries with a stranger when riding in an elevator. What used to be a rule has become an exception, yet such a simple interaction can have profound effects on someone’s emotional well-being. In business, multi-channel communication has dramatically reduced phone calls to companies; customers can get answers and place orders via email, on websites, or through social media channels.

Today’s illiterates are those who have an inability to make connections with others.

The pendulum has swung over to high tech and low touch with far less social interaction. Consequently, we long for a sense of community, belonging, and purpose, a world in which people actually know our name, what we do, what is important to us, and have trust in one another. Today, trust is an endangered value. Those who understand that human touch is the most important part of any experience—especially a world class customer experience—will flourish. Personally, and professionally, success is increasingly about creating and building human connections.

*RelatedHow to Train Your Employees to be Great at Relationship Building

The Benefits of Strong Connections in All Areas of Life

When you have the ability to make an instant connection, get people to instantly like you, make them feel comfortable, and fully develop relationships of all kinds, you are likely to have more fulfillment and success. I cannot think of anything that will give you a bigger advantage in all aspects of your life, including higher self-esteem, a larger network, a greater support system, better physical health, and more resources. Your personal and professional lives will be filled with an abundance of people who think highly of you, love you, and have your back.

People who have key relationships and positive influences in their life are usually less stressed because they have someone they can talk to, vent to, and confide in when life gets tough. And it is just as rewarding to be a positive influencer for others—to have others rely on you.

Lives can be changed for the better because the right friendships can make a difference in someone’s life at a critical point. In an interview with Tom Bilyeu on his series Impact Theory, author Simon Sinek said, “Those relationships that we foster over the course of a lifetime . . . will oftentimes save your life. They will save you from depression. They will save you from giving up, they will save you from any matter of negative feelings about your capabilities, your own future, when someone just says I love you and I will follow you no matter what.”

*RelatedWhy Men are the Most Relationship Disadvantaged

People with strong relationships have a greater potential for more professional success, are less impacted by corporate politics, laugh more, and experience less depression. Research has shown that social engagement and meaningful relationships are associated with living a longer life and improving your overall health. The flip side is also true: Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the lead author of a study that reviewed and analyzed research in this area, noted, “A lack of social relationships was equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.” It is a serious public health issue, one that health care providers could communicate to their patients and community organizations could encourage residents to form discussion groups about.

Studies have repeatedly shown that the happiest people are the ones with the most meaningful relationships. Yet it seems to have become increasingly difficult to maintain these relationships. Too often we are guilty of treating the people we encounter as part of a transaction or as a private audience for us. We miss out on an opportunity to make a deeper connection that can potentially enrich both lives. Think about your best friend or your significant other; both were strangers at one time. How different your life would be if they had remained strangers. Thank goodness you found a way to develop a rapport that turned an initial contact into a lifelong relationship.

But something is happening in our society. Research shows that over the past several decades our inner circle—the people with whom we have the closest personal relationships—is much smaller than in the past. Today the average American trusts only 10 to 20 people.

*RelatedSoft Skills Training is the Secret Sauce to Exceptional Customer Experience

Training to Build Relationships is More Vital Than Ever in the Business World

Amazon has disrupted nearly all retail businesses—grocery stores, health insurance, banks, home security, entertainment, pharmacies, and shipping, and it continues to expand into other fields. Airbnb has disrupted the hotel industry. Netflix wiped out video rental stores.

No business is safe. In the past, cutting-edge innovation had a much longer shelf life in overcoming competition. Now, however, many of your competitors can replicate your innovations and quickly reduce any temporary advantage you had in the market. The answer cannot just be about technology, either. To be sure, technological advancements are critical to every business staying relevant. However, technology by itself is not a differentiator. The more you place technology between the company and the customer, the more you remove the human experience.

*RelatedGet your copy of The Relationship Economy

People crave human interaction. Customers desire recognition and a personalized experience; technology can never be empathetic. It cannot express empathy, make people feel cared for, express emotions and vulnerability in a relatable way, or make people smile and laugh. It will never understand the values of kindness, much less come close to adding the human touch to a customer’s experience. In short, technology cannot provide genuine hospitality.

For anyone and any business to thrive in the future, they will have to train their people on soft skills to master the art of relationship building.

“Our careers, our companies, our relationships, and indeed our very lives succeed or fail, gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time.”

—Susan Scott


Bronkar Lee & Aaron Williams Performing at the Customer Service Revolution Conference

We are thrilled to announce that Bronkar Lee and Aaron Williams will be performing at this year’s Customer Service Revolution. Bronkar and Aaron are high-energy educators, musical performers, and an entertaining keynote speaker duo sharing tangible tools and outside-the-box inspiration on what’s possible when we embrace an expansion mindset.

Bronkar performed previously at the Customer Service Revolution conference and was one of the highest rated presenters we have had.Bronkar Lee And Aaron Williams CSRevolution, The DiJulius Group Bronkar’s unique background includes touring Europe as ringmaster to a world-renowned circus, appearing with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show, starring in a Super Bowl commercial, and performing at Madison Square Garden. Aaron is a virtuosic instrumentalist, acclaimed music educator, and YouTube star who has appeared in Coca-Cola’s “America the Beautiful” Super Bowl campaign.

The title of their presentation is Staying in Sync to Elevate Our Potential. No matter what our organizational goals are, the key element in achieving them is the individual human beings that lay the bricks, take the steps, and move the needle every single day. The way that we, as humans, collaborate and communicate can make all the difference between success and failure. Much like musicians performing a song, everyone benefits exponentially from staying in sync, keeping in tune, and remaining in tempo with each other. This wildly engaging keynote performance (full of stories, music, and high energy inspiration) will have you ignited by the possibility of being a part of the thriving collaboration that is your organization.

You will:

  • Reignite a sense of ownership in your contributions, finding new motivation to leverage skills you already have
  • Build connection with peers and coworkers to create a thriving collaborative environment
  • Build a culture that identifies hidden opportunity, realizes potential, and flourishes together


Episode 121 of the Customer Service Revolution Podcast

Listening to What Your Customers are saying

Chief Revolution Officer John DiJulius of The DiJulius Group had the pleasure of discussing this fascinating topic with Leslie Pagel, ChiefLeslie Pagel CSRevolution Podcast, The DiJulius Group Evangelist of Authentics. Leslie offers her unique insights into the Voice of the Customer (VoC), its differences from customer satisfaction surveys, and the importance of listening at scale to unsolicited feedback. She also shares some advice for businesses interested in leveraging customer conversations to drive improvements and revolutionize their operations.

But that’s not all! Leslie and John dive into machine learning and its impact on customer service. They explore the “eddy effect”–a powerful machine learning model that detects when customers are stuck in their journey–and alerts businesses to take action. Plus, we discuss the potential of chat GPT for customer service, the value of leveraging AI, and the need to appreciate customer conversations as a precious data source.


Register for the 2023 Customer Service Revolution Conference

CSRev Sizzle Reel, The DiJulius Group


SpeakerLineup, The DiJulius Group

About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.