Occasionally people from certain organisations say to me "we’re not looking for emotional intelligence support or training," And that’s fine.
Except when I find I’m interacting with the very same organisation as a customer a while later and my experience follows an all too familiar ‘low EI’ pattern that erodes trust and engagement.
It’s that distinct feeling that the person in front of you or on the other end of the phone doesn’t value what matters to you or doesn’t possess the basic emotional relationship skills to show they care.
The Advanced Relationship Skill’s model © of emotionally intelligent relationships is a powerful way to build engaging and ‘wealth-building’ customer experiences.
Rule 1: Raise your awareness
Check in with how you’re feeling:
- Are you free of negative emotions at the present time? Be open and clear.
- Practice calming yourself. Breathe deeply, carefully and slowly.
Learn to read emotions - in person and over the phone – information is King and reading people accurately gives you high quality information to work with.
Rule 2: Care about the person and their issue
No-one should be allowed anywhere near a customer without compassion. Look for reasons to care about the customer in front of you. Get to the mental space where you actually feel what it’s like in their position and are keen to help them.
Rule 3: Use positive demeanour
Be warm, transparent and act with integrity – be mindful of being disingenuous or ‘care-less’.
Think carefully about using appropriate lightness and gentle humour – not to diminish the value you show but as a powerful engagement tool – be wary to always keep rapport.
Rule 4: Build the relationship basics
Put yourself in their shoes – ask yourself ‘what do they need’ and what would solve their issue?
Ask yourself frequently whether what and how you’re saying is likely to build or undermine trust
Take responsibility for not only what you say and do- your part of the interaction - but beyond for the whole issue and the continuity of the customer experience. If it needs a call back or follow up, make it happen.
Be genuine and demonstrate that the customer is an individual – special even – this works best through action and non-verbal communication. Treat them like your best friend or a favoured uncle or aunt. Be very careful of dangerous (overused or disingenuous) phrases that should be avoided;
- ‘I understand how you feel ‘ (unless you really mean it)
- ‘I can’t comment on that’
- ‘That’s your opinion’
- ‘I can’t tell you my last name’ ( take responsibility)
- ‘Is there anything else I can help you with today?’ - Often used an attempt to close the call when the customer is clearly not satisfied.
- Your call is important to me/us
- ‘I don’t know who you spoke to – it wasn’t me / we have no record of that’
- ‘It’s in our terms and conditions’
- It’s (not) our policy
Beware repeating questions or statements as part of a script or to stone-wall.
Rule 5: Listen to the customer
Be patient – show them you have time for them and are ‘really’ listening
Follow ‘the customer’s concerns’ not simply ‘the script’
- Listen carefully to the bigger picture - what the customer needs (tone, volume, speed, body language etc.), not simply to the words otherwise you’ll miss ‘what’s really going on’.
Be careful about interrupting especially at the beginning to ensure they tell their story as well as to allow them to feel heard. Simply allowing a customer to feel heard is allowing them to feel valued. Simply listening can resolve a situation.
Reflect back that you’re listening
- Use appreciative listening skills – nodding, agreeing, saying ‘I understand’. Show you value them and what’s going on for them in a simple and honest way
- Make mental and physical notes – minimise the need to repeat the same questions (use long-hand notes on a system that records and others must read before interacting with the customer).
- Check for understanding; paraphrase without parroting. Take a mental check of ‘where they are’ emotionally through-out.
Rule 6: Use positive emotional expression
- Use clear simple and unambiguous language
- Exude calmness
- Be positive in your manner and how you phrase things (carefully turn negatives around)
- Use gentle assertion where absolutely necessary
- Avoid reaction of emotion and language at all costs
- Confront anger or negative emotions with compassion for yourself and them
Rule 7: Be solution-oriented
- Be driven by a solution, show acceptance of an issue and apologise if appropriate and move on – don’t focus on the problem
- Ask them for and highlight the positives if appropriate
- Be aware of where potential conflict may occur – do your utmost not to engage in conflict –inject compassion
- Frame an interaction with appropriateness and be mindful of timing (yours and theirs).
Philip Gimmack runs EQworks, emotional intelligence training & executive coaching specialists based in London. Developer of the A.R.T. interpersonal skills (EQ) assessment, he builds leadership, relationship and resilience skills.Philip also runs motivational speaking seminars across the UK.