Emotional Intelligence for Effective Customer Service

“Emotional Intelligence, more than any other factor, more than I.Q. or expertise, accounts for 85% to 90% of success at work…I.Q.is a threshold of competence. You need it, but it doesn’t make you a star. Emotional intelligence can.” – Warren G Bennis

We know that every customer is different – the way they feel and interact with brands differs, depending on their needs, preferences, likes, and emotions. For more effective experiences and customer service, companies too need to think differently about how their brand connects with its customers, and this is what emotional intelligence entails. Companies that are emotionally intelligent, would ensure that their representatives understand customers well, empathise with them, and match the company’s products and or service to meet the specific needs of customers. It is a mistake to believe that improving on selling and marketing skills alone will boost sales and make customers buy. Most often, below average selling performance would not be because the company’s sales personnel need to enhance their hard-core selling skills. Poor performance, when looked at carefully, is usually because of ineptitude on the part of the personnel to connect emotionally with customers. The personnel often forget to listen attentively, which results in their inability to identify the emotional reasons for which customers may be seeking to buy. Building emotional intelligence is therefore, critical for effective customer service and experiences.

It is a fact, and every business owner must know it, that customers buy products and from brands because of how they ‘feel’ toward it. These positive or negative feelings arise from the kind of treatment customers receive from the company’s employees, the quality of the products, and the overall ‘look and feel’ of a brand. All these make up the shopping experience for customers, and research proves that at least 55%-60% customers would pay more for better experiences and customer service. A company has a culture of emotional intelligence, would be better equipped to recognize and manage customer’s emotions, thereby enhancing engagement and warm feelings from customers. Research proves that business in the future with a company, would depend on the level of customer satisfaction, which in turn is based on the emotional engagement customers have with the company’s representatives. Customers, who like the person managing their business, are twelve times more likely to continue buying from the company.

It is important therefore, to put emotional intelligence into action such that it enhances customer service levels, and leads to an increase in customer engagement and loyalty over time. All the experiences customers have with the company, via every touch-point and channel, would determine how customers feel and the kinds of emotions they have for the company. It is therefore, extremely critical that companies realize that their focus must not remain on making the initial sale, but rather find ways to know more about their customers such that they can connect with customers on a personal level. Knowing what drives people to buy, what would make them continue buying, and what would urges them to tell others of their experiences, is what emotional intelligence is all about – and every company needs it to become and remain successful.

The teams that front-end with customers therefore, need both soft and technical hard-core skills. While they must be extremely adept at understanding and analysing data, they must also know what behaviours to use in order to encourage customers to provide the data. They must be able to ‘read and assess’ trends and customer buying behaviour, but must also know how to build a rapport such that customers increase their spending and encourage their friends and associates as well to buy from the company. This aptitude and these skills are essential since customers are constantly dealing with loads of information from various companies and sources. Customers do not have the time or the inclination to sift through more information, and would be more likely to buy from a company that provides them with crisp, clear, immediately useable, and useful information. Receiving such service makes for effective customer service, and is one of the unsaid expectations that customers have from companies, and high emotional intelligence would enable companies to understand and comply.

It therefore means that companies must hire people with a natural aptitude to serve, and show signs of high emotional intelligence. Candidates with experience of analytical thinking, relationship building, problem solving, and other such skills would inherently possess high emotional intelligence and would be ideally suited for roles to front end with customers. It is thus quite simple to see the connection between high emotional intelligence and effective customer service. Employees with a better understanding of emotional intelligence would be more in control of their own emotions, making them better at regulating their responses and reactions, especially in the face of highly stressed and difficult customers and service situations. As mentioned, every customer is different. Their responses and reactions to service and products would be unique, depending on a number of factors, which makes emotional intelligence an even more critical skill for all those employees who interact directly with customers. Studies prove that those customer service and sales personnel who possess some amount of emotional intelligence, and would have undergone training to develop it further, would provide more effective customer service, and would be a lot more convincing when trying to make a sale.

Keeping customers happy through an empathetic and friendly approach consistently is one of the basic tasks of any customer facing team. While companies may use the most updated technology to ensure effective customer service, what would differentiate one company from the next, would be its ability to recognize customer feelings, give them importance, and produce responses and solutions that would match the emotional needs. This is the basis of emotional intelligence for effective customer service. Whatever a customer may feel about the company representative will be the feelings a customer would have about the company as a whole true – rightly or wrongly. It is therefore, imperative that every interaction customers have with a company representative must be happy and memorable. Of course, it is not possible for customers to develop personal associations / relationships with every front-ending personnel, but if every employee were high on emotional intelligence, customers would know that whomever in the company they deal with would provide them with the best experiences and the most effective customer service.

As an increasing number of interactions between customers and companies are becoming digital, personal and face-to-face interactions are fewer. Therefore, when such direct interactions do take place, companies must make every effort to ensure that customers feel special and important, and that every emotional reason for which they may be buying, would be satisfied. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of connecting with the emotions and feelings of customers. The higher the emotional intelligence of a company, the better would the emotional connection be with its customers.

The bottom line is that customers are living and feeling beings – not numbers or robots. The management of emotions and customer experiences must not be left to chance. There must be a culture of keeping customers happy, and companies must have a relentless focus on emotional intelligence to enhance customer service. Emotional intelligence provides companies with an insight into what makes its customers happy and what would frustrate them. This knowledge is what makes or breaks brands / companies. Which type of company are you?

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