Emotionally intelligent customer service

Emotional intelligence, EQ. Never mind what it is for a moment (you undoubtedly have an idea, anyway). The key question is: on a very practical level, what does it do when you use it? The answer is: emotional intelligence builds relationships.

Now that sounds relevant to how you interacts with your customers. So relevant in fact that EQ might just be the foundation of excellent customer service. After all, regardless of your product or service’s main market segment, your customers can potentially be any (adult) age, have a variety of needs and expectations, be anywhere on the planet (or political spectrum), espouse contradictory values… In fact, each customer is unique and building strong customer relationships requires empathy, understanding, and the application of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence – a quick recap

In a nutshell, emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, assess, understand, and manage emotions – your own and others’. The emotionally intelligent can adapt their behaviour and thinking in response to information about other people’s emotional states in order to achieve a better result; in this case, build a customer relationship.

This nutshell comes in two halves (don’t they all?): understanding yourself and understanding others. the key components of EQ are Self-awareness (of your emotions, values and drives, and how they impact on others); Self-management (being in control of your emotions in various situations); Social awareness (understanding the needs and emotions of others); and Relationship management (applying all of this knowledge to the way you communicate, relate, and deal with conflict).

In other words, it’s all about people. Very like customer service in that it’s people that make purchases, people that sell to those people, people that design online sales platforms and complaints processes, and people that always want to be happy with the product or service they’re buying.

Applying EQ to customer service – 10 TOP TIPS

  1. Before you begin, be calm and free of negative feelings – know yourself.
  2. Read the customer – what are they feeling?
  3. Put yourself in their shoes – understanding their position makes it easier to help them.
  4. Be positive, be warm – build rapport, care about what they’re telling you, and show it.
  5. Listen actively – i.e. don’t just listen to what they’re saying, show them you’re listening (for tips on active listening techniques, try our article The art of REALLY listening to the customer).
  6. Ask yourself, what does this person need from the situation?
  7. Look for and offer solutions – then explain and discuss them as necessary; don’t impose them.
  8. Use clear and unambiguous language.
  9. Avoid clichés – the ones that everybody’s tired of hearing: Your call is very important to us. I understand how you feel. (Maybe you do but that phrase convinces nobody!) I can’t comment on that. Is there anything else I can help you with today? And so on…
  10. Stay calm, positive and solution-focused – especially in difficult, complicated or conflicted situations.

Finally, remember that emotions (yours and the customer’s) are contagious. While you’re reading them, they’re reading you (consciously or otherwise) and how you’re coming across will influence how the customer feels about you, and the organisation. Use that to your advantage by following the above tips.

If you’re interested in knowing more about using EQ in customer service, check out our training programme Emotionally intelligent customer service, or give us a call on 01582 463464 – we’re here to help!

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