Emotional Intelligence and Customer ServiceService Quality Image

Satisfied customers are essential to an organization’s success.

As you know, delivering excellent customer service can set you apart from your competitors. Recent studies show that increasing emotional intelligence within service organizations brings tremendous value.

Connecting with customers on an emotionally intelligent level sets the foundation for lasting relationships, builds customer loyalty and creates profitability.

In a study, completed by Sally Kernback and Nicolar Schutte (Journal of Services Marketing), the authors assessed three levels of emotional intelligence in front line sales associates.

At the highest level, the front line sales associate anticipated how the customer would feel, expressed his/her own feelings clearly, showed an understanding of the consequences of feelings and acted in ways that led to a positive outcome (i.e. sales associate and customer both felt good at the end of the interaction).

At the medium level of emotional intelligence, the front line sales associate was able to perceive, express and understand emotions, but was poor at managing his/her own reactions. They also, lacked an understanding that emotions were going back and forth between him/herself and the client.

The most interesting findings were shown at the lowest level of emotional intelligence. This happened during difficult moments when unhappy customers returned items. When the front line sales associates lacked emotional intelligence, the interaction escalated to angry exchanges-creating the strongest negative effect and most customer dissatisfaction.

To be noted: even a moderate amount of emotional intelligence interjected into the transaction helped to boost customer satisfaction during this dicey exchange.

Many large companies (ie. L’Oreal Cosmetics, American Express, MetLife, etc.) are using the concepts of emotional intelligence to develop their people and improve their bottom line results. The Bar-On EQ instrument for emotional intelligence provides an excellent framework for awareness and training on customer service skills.

The following competencies are important for building effective service organizations-both from a team and individual perspective:

  • Self-Regard – Having inner strength, self-assuredness, self confidence.
  • Emotional Self-Awareness – Knowing what you are feeling and why.
  • Assertiveness – Having the ability to express oneself, voice opinions, disagree appropriately.
  • Empathy – Listening skills; Understanding and appreciating the feelings of another person.
  • Interpersonal Relationship – Being able to connect with others, build and mend relationships.
  • Stress Tolerance – Having the capacity to choose courses of action during stressful times.
  • Impulse control – Being composed and controlling aggression.
  • Flexibility – Adapting to unfamiliar, unpredictable circumstances.
  • Problem Solving – Working through a process to implement a solution.
  • Optimism – Keeping a positive attitude in difficult times.
  • Happiness – Being self-satisfied and acting at ease.

Building emotional intelligence with your staff enables your organization to differentiate itself as a customer service leader. It creates an environment where people are committed to making a difference and being their best.

As always, your sustainable competitive advantage lies in relationships with your customers.

“Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!”

Tom Peters, Management Guru