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Emotional Intelligence in Customer-facing Roles

Emotional Intelligence

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” But what exactly does this mean in the workplace?

Qualifications and experience count for a lot when it comes down to your suitability for your chosen career. But today, employers need and want a little bit more from their employees; they want soft skills or Emotional Intelligence. In fact, EQ was ranked sixth in the World Economic Forum’s list of the skills you will need to thrive in today’s workplace. Recent research suggests that the highest performing employees display a high EQ, but the majority of businesses do not have any formal guidelines on how to identify or cultivate these skills and less than half of employers provide training that involves the building of EQ. (Potentially less within the automotive industry)

How can building EQ in my workforce help in customer-facing roles?

Traditionally we have used price points, product features and incentives to persuade our customers to buy from us whether that purchase is a product or a service. But today’s customer will make decisions based on their emotional experience as well. The ‘feel-good factor’ no longer comes from grabbing a bargain. There has to be a more emotional connection with the purchase, and in customer-facing roles, this emotional factor will be largely dependent on the person they deal with. 

But herein lies the problem. One of the greatest challenges facing employees is that these emotions, whether they are positive or negative, are not instantly obvious and can be difficult to interpret. How you approach and manage a customer will depend largely on how they behave. Being able to read your customers and adapt your approach to suit their own emotions will help to build an enhanced rapport with the customer, gain their trust and give them the confidence that you are on their side. 

Working with the positives

A customer who approaches you with a happy, chatty and enthusiastic greeting will instantly feel deflated if they are approached by someone who appears to be overly professional and process-driven, quick to get the customer processed and does not engage with the customer on a personal level. By relaxing your approach, matching their body language, tone of voice and energy levels, you are engaging with the customer and allowing them to share their personality with you. This instantly builds up a rapport and with that comes trust; the trust to make a purchase with you because they have confidence in you and what you are offering

Working with the negatives

Identifying if someone is under time pressure, frustrated or disappointed is usually much easier, and an unhappy customer will be quick to share their negative emotions with you. However, how the colleague reacts both internally and behaviourally will have a direct effect on the customers’ experience and engagement. In these instances, it is important to remain patient, open-minded and demonstrate that you have empathy with their situation. Your body language, your demeanour and your facial expressions are all important factors in how you should approach this situation. Which, when a colleague is in a busy environment can be very demanding without the self-awareness required. In today’s retail environment managing the customer experience puts you ahead of the competition, in my opinion, customers buy the experience, if we want the edge over the competition, then it will come through our people and the experience they deliver.

Emotional Intelligence is such an important skill for everyone in today’s working environment, whether their roles are customer-facing or not. Research shows that workers with higher EQ are more motivated, more productive and demonstrate greater levels of self-regulation. The best news is that contrary to popular opinion, EQ is a skill that can be taught. Just like we can break down the nuts and bolts of teaching someone a technical skill, so can we break down the nuts and bolts of EQ. Businesses today rely on their workforce to be highly engaged and able to adapt to changing situations. These skills are deeply rooted in our emotional behaviours, and we all have them.

At GMD People we can assist in developing your team’s EQ and ability to enhance both your internal and external customer experience.

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