Understanding the Value of Emotional Intelligence in Customer Service

two women talking

Lately, the term “emotional intelligence” has generated buzz. It is often referred to as a “soft skill.” The fact is, 75% of careers become derailed based on people’s lack of self-awareness and their inability to manage their emotions in times of stress. As a small business owner, you want to know that your employees can diffuse difficult customer interactions and help solve problems rather than add fuel to the fire!

When you think about what your employees are communicating to customers, you need to consider word choice, tone, and body language. A study out of UCLA reveals that word choice accounts for only 7% of what you communicate. Body language accounts for 55% of what you “say” to others and tone of voice/tone of email accounts for 38%. Noting this is important because the body language your employees exude directly influences your customers' experiences.

Pay close attention to your employees and how they interact with customers. Are they looking at the computer screen when a customer is trying to ask a question? Do they do a “fly by” to help a customer? Do they seem rushed? Do they come across as annoyed by customers' requests? These experiences will cause the customer to form a negative belief system about your business. However, if you and your employees make it a point to create positive experiences based on a few simple habits, it can make a big difference in how customers perceive your business.

Here are three simple things you and your employees can do to build a positive belief system about customer service and interaction in your business:

  1. When a customer has a question, stop, square up so that you are fully engaged with the customer, and make eye contact. This body language says, “I am completely interested in what you have to say, and how I can help?”
  2. Don’t multi-task when communicating with a customer. Even though it is not your intent to seem uninterested when you are checking your phone, looking over a customer’s shoulder, or talking on the walkie-talkie you are sending a message to the customer that says, “You are not important to me, I’ve got better things to do.”
  3. Don’t assume, ask! One of the ways to get into trouble is making assumptions rather than bothering to ask. Your brain is wired to get 5% of the information and then try to fill in the blanks. When a customer expresses a concern, even if you’ve heard it before, they have not said it before. Therefore, to THEM it is the first time. When you dismiss their concern, and give a “typical response,” you make the customer feel stupid or like they are a nuisance. Let the customer air his frustration, then ask questions so you can get to the real issue and not what you assume is the issue.

Helping your employees understand the value of not only what they say but how they say it and with what body language can determine if the customer leaves your store and says, “Wow, what great customer service! I am shopping here from now on.” Or, if they leave your store and post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and every social media channel, “I will never be back; the employees here don’t care about customers.” As you know, those comments can be detrimental to your business.

Lisa Armstrong

About the Author

Lisa Armstrong has 22 years of sales, sales leadership and training, and development experience. She is certified to teach selling skills, coaching models, emotional intelligence, crucial conversations, and curriculum design.