Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute.
I know that several of you run your own businesses, are sales people or are in customer service. This article on emotional intelligence and customer emotions is for you.
- How much emotional awareness do you have of your own and customers' emotions?
- How good are you at managing customer emotions and providing a great customer experience?
- How well do you manage your own emotions and display high levels of emotional intelligence when handling customers?
Your emotional intelligence skills in these areas (or lack of them), could mean the difference between being successful in business and going under.
This whole article was prompted when I spoke to a business group recently and found some shop owners blaming their downturn in business on on-line shopping. I suggested they add an on-line shop to their businesses but they didn't like that idea. (That, to me, was like insisting on still selling fax machines even though we have moved to emails and social media.)
The next day my husband and I went into another business to browse and buy, but instead of the owner selling me something, she too complained about on-line shoppers to us. This was a demonstration of low emotional intelligence. Why be negative to customers? My emotions shifted and she lost sales. We left her shop without buying anything.
Five ways you need emotional intelligence in customer service
For example, one carpet salesman who came to a day's emotional intelligence course with me wrote afterwards, "I applied what I learnt in your EI course and paid attention to people's emotions. In one week I sold $60,000 more carpets than I've ever sold before. This was a record for me and the store". He was stoked.
If you are involved in retail or any form of customer service you need emotional intelligence in a number of significant areas. Here are five of them.
Emotional intelligence 1: Your emotions influence customers.
Your emotions influence the customer experience.
When the owner of the shop started complaining how bad retail was and that people buying over the Internet were killing her business, I asked myself, "Was the internet killing her trade?" No!
Her inability to give us a positive and pleasant customer experience was. She had real live customers in her shop and failed to get us to part with the money in our wallets. We were buyers. It was her negative emotions about the Internet that stopped us from buying, not the Internet.
What type of customer experience do you give your customers and the people you serve?
If you don't take care of your emotions so that you can care positively for the customers you do have and give them a reason to shop with you, why wouldn't they buy on the Internet? There are no grumpy customer service operators to deal with on the Internet.
Manage your own emotions and make sure you are providing your customers with a wonderful customer experience so they want to shop or be served by you.
Managing your own emotions intelligently is one of the many skills of emotional intelligence that can help your business.
Emotional intelligence 2: Be aware of your customers' emotions.
Instead of trying a hard sell, or worrying about a drop in consumer confidence, pay attention to how your customers are feeling. The emotions of your customers matter. Being aware of others' emotions is another important emotional intelligence skill that can help your business or sales.
- Are you aware of the emotions generated by the customer experience you provide?
- Do you consider your customers' emotions?
- Do you facilitate positive emotions in your customers?
- Do your customers leave feeling proud of their purchase? Delighted with your service? Happy to have found you?
- Do your customers feel important, cared for, looked after, understood, fascinated, engaged, appreciated, valued, thrilled, ecstatic or some other similar pleasant emotion?
- Or, do they feel ignored, put down, negative, in the way, troubled, confused, unwanted, unhappy, let down, disappointed, frustrated, irritated, misunderstood, unimportant, insignificant or slighted?
Develop awareness of your customers' emotions. It is the emotions of your customers that influence whether they buy from you or not. Don't just think it's only about price; it isn't.
Are your levels of emotional intelligence high enough so you can read the emotions of your customers?
Emotional intelligence 3: Influence your customers.
The emotions your customers are feeling can relate to specific purchases.
- Are they feeling uncomfortable with the item they are considering?
- Do they have anxiety about whether they are making the right choice?
- Do they seem happy with one item more than another?
- Does their level of excitement or interest increase when you mention particular features or benefits?
- Does their emotional energy drop when looking at a particular item, size or colour?
Once you are aware of your customers' emotions you have the option to manage them and to adjust what you are saying, doing or displaying to accommodate them. For example:
- If your customer is anxious, you might acknowledge this, or provide reassurance so that they settle.
- If he or she is excited about a particular item you might encourage them to talk about where they'd use it or wear it, (as appropriate).
- If he or she is concerned that an item won't match one he or she already has, you can help them to check the colour match so they become confident that it will work.
By paying attention to and managing your customers' emotions you will have more chance of higher sales.
Do you underestimate the importance of managing customers' emotions in your business? Or is your emotional intelligence high enough so you manage them positively and boost your income?
Emotional intelligence tip 4: Make customers feel important.
What goal do you aim for in regards to the customer experience you provide? Do you ensure it is one that will enhance your sales and leave people satisfied with your service and wanting to return?
A friend was recently complaining about a large department store in a major city. It was the same department store that recently had been in the media complaining about a drop in sales and consumer confidence. My friend was very frustrated. She said there appeared to be no one interested in serving customers. She left feeling insignificant, unwanted and ignored.
This is not a positive customer experience. None of these customer emotions were likely to lead to sales.
Instead, help your customers to feel important. No, not by putting a message on your voice mail saying, "Your call is important to us", but by sharing a genuine interest in the person, by having enthusiasm for serving customers, and by connecting with their interests.
Do you have the emotional intelligence skills to help your customers feel important?
Emotional intelligence tip 5: Change your emotions.
I understand that customer emotions are not necessarily easy to manage. We've all experienced difficult, angry or complaining customers. They are not necessarily easy to win over or turn around, but by applying high levels of emotional intelligence it could be possible.
What may be even easier is to ensure the neutral or slightly positive customer turns into a very happy customer with a delightful customer experience.
Can you help them enjoy their interactions with you? Can you make coming to your shop, surgery or service centre an enjoyable experience?
Even simple things, such as how you greet people, what you talk about and how willing you are to connect with them and show an interest in them could make a difference.
Providing them with extra treats, value, drinks or other aspects of a caring customer experience can all help differentiate your business from others and have people returning.
Being really helpful can also be valuable.
Differentiate yourself from the competition. Stand out. Make the customer experience a pleasant and engaging one. If your competition is on-line sales, then do the things that a website cannot do: manage customers' emotions.
The importance of emotional intelligence and managing customer emotions should not be underestimated in business, sales or customer service.
Learn more about dealing positively with customer emotions
- There are high energy, interactive and practical emotional intelligence workshops. Of particular value to your customer service staff is the one "How to keep your cool with difficult people".
- There is a dynamic keynote speech on "A duck's back: Keeping cool with negativity" which will get your event buzzing and help people in customer service.
- There are emotional intelligence CDs, DVDs and books particularly the unique and practical 2 CD set, "How to deal with difficult people WITHOUT GETTING UPSET". Bulk discounts are available so all your employees or team members may have their own copy.