Emotional intelligence in Customer Service

Emotional intelligence (EI) describes the ability, capacity, skill or, in the case of the trait EI model, a self-perceived grand ability to identify, assess, manage and control the emotions of one’s self, of others, and of groups.

The earliest roots of emotional intelligence can be traced to Darwin’s work on the importance of emotional expression for survival and second adaptation. In the 1900s, even though traditional definitions of intelligence emphasized cognitive aspects such as memory and problem-solving, several influential researchers in the intelligence field of study had begun to recognize the importance of the non-cognitive aspects. E.L. Thorndike used the term social intelligence to describe the skill of understanding and managing other people.

The model introduced by Daniel Goleman focuses on EI as a wide array of competencies and skills that drive leadership performance. Goleman’s model outlines four main EI constructs:

  1. Self-awareness – the ability to read one’s emotions and recognize their impact while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
  2. Self-management – involves controlling one’s emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
  3. Social awareness – the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks.
  4. Relationship management – the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict.

EI-driven Customer Service

Emotional Intelligence of the staff directly effects the level of Customer Service your company provides. It’s essential for the leaders of an organization not only to work  on themselves, but also cultivate and foster the culture of EI company-wide.

Ancient Egyptians believed the heart was the center of intelligence and emotion. They also thought so little of the brain that during mummification, they removed the brain entirely from bodies. Calm down, I’m not suggesting to take that route, but rather let emotions to compliment your work. In many cases the lack of control/awareness over the emotions holds back one’s professional and personal growth.

EI is one of the most challenging areas in which one can excel. It is relatively easy to teach someone about a technology or fact based subject, but in order to provide great customer service one must learn how to perceive, use, understand and manage emotions. These skills might take a life-time to master.

The managers need to point out some of the specific areas staff can focus on to get on the path of continual self-improvement. Ask the team to start with the basics:

  • the ability to provide accurate information
  • have consistent etiquette (every customer, every time)
  • manage time at work to be available to help customers first and foremost (customers always come first)
  • know ways to showcase to your customers that you are trying to save them money while still meeting company’s needs/goals (we care about our customers)

All of the above elements are examples of traits that may differ between employees and even departments. If you educate one another on ways to perform better in these areas you can, in turn, have a more consistent level of customer service overall. Everyone should at least have the ability to educate themselves up to a certain level on these key points. Almost all of the points above can be improved simply by finding and reading information on the web or talking to each other about how someone else may handle certain situations.

Your team must understand and know more about your services and the technology/products you offer than your customers. Aim to provide more than a customer expects, including more knowledge, then your customer experience, therefore your business, will flourish.

“Comparing the three domains, I found that for jobs of all kinds, emotional competencies were twice as prevalent among distinguishing competencies as were technical skills and purely cognitive abilities combined. In general the higher a position in an organization, the more EI mattered: for individuals in leadership positions, 85 percent of their competencies were in the EI domain.”  — Daniel Goleman