Business + Science

Emotional Intelligence Training Improves Customer Experience

By Favor Larson and Dr. Ron J. Bonnstetter, TTI Ltd.

Ask your front-line staff about their crankiest customer experiences, and you’ll likely be met with story after story of seemingly irrational behavior. Your grouchiest customers are upset because they have a problem. They haven’t received a return phone call. They can’t download a file stored on your website. They believe the invoice you sent them is inaccurate. By the time they’ve reached out to your company with a phone call, their frustration has compounded and every experience, even being momentarily placed on hold, is considered an insult. The manner your front-liners communicate with these customers is what can turn a distressed client into your next brand evangelist, and the success of this lies in emotional intelligence training.

What is EQ?
Emotional intelligence, also referred to as EQ, is the ability to sense, understand and effectively apply the power and acumen of your emotions and the emotions of others in order to facilitate higher levels of collaboration and productivity. Understanding the emotions of others is key for any of your staff members who communicate directly with customers. By involving your service staff in EQ training, your employees will develop the skills and knowledge to better understand your customers, how to manage their expectations and ultimately meet their needs.

There are five dimensions of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Self-Awareness – the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others.

Self-Regulation – the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, and the propensity to suspend judgment to think before acting.

Motivation – a passion to work for reasons that go beyond money or status and a propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence.

Empathy – the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people.

Social Skills – a proficiency in managing relationships and building networks.

Raising Awareness
The first step to understanding self and others is to know the brain anatomy of EQ. Information from our senses as well as our thoughts are first sent to a small walnut-shaped structure called the thalamus. The thalamus treats information from the outside world, thoughts and even fantasies in the same way. It does not differentiate fact from fiction. When the next phase of logical processing is hampered by stress or lack of EQ, instinct takes over, limiting our actions to flight, fight or freeze responses. Without proactive responses to these stressors, we also see an immediate spike in the hormone cortisol. The release of cortisol can flood our body and impact decision-making ability for several hours.

It’s easy to see the connection between EQ and customer service.

When your staff is better equipped to understand their own emotions, they can more effectively temper their reactions to deal with the issues of the customer. Likewise, being able to better understand customers’ emotions will help them see through the clouds of reaction and approach each problem more clearly. Studies by the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations have shown salespeople and customer services agents who have undergone EQ training develop more accounts, have higher sales, deliver strong customer service and realize better customer retention than those who have not.

Favor Larson is senior business services consultant for TTI Success Insights. Dr. Ron J. Bonnstetter is senior vice president of research and development for Target Training International Ltd. TTI is based in the Scottsdale Airpark at 17785 N. Pacesetter Way. More,