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13. Emotionally intelligent customer service tips 6-10

Written by Rachel Green, Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute, accredited user of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and international leader in emotional intelligence coaching.

Working with emotional intelligence can make the difference between excellent customer service and poor customer service.

You may have brilliant product knowledge, have bargain prices, and be technically able to meet customer requests - but does this mean that you automatically provide excellent service? Not at all.

There is far more to customer service than product knowledge, there is also emotions - and that is why working with emotional intelligence matters.

I was in a shop recently where the assistant clearly knew her product range but she seemed disinterested in serving me. I left the shop without a purchase; and I was a polite, good natured customer so I wondered how bad she was with difficult ones.

Worse still I was the only customer she had!

Having the knowledge doesn't mean you aren't short or sharp with your customers. Having expertise doesn't mean you are patient, charming or good humoured with customers. Having technical skills doesn't mean you are good at reading your customers and managing their emotions.

Yet all of these aspects influence the level of customer service you provide. The voice tone you use, the manner with which you communicate with your customers, and your ability to read customers' emotions and influence them, all contribute to your levels of customer service. That is why working with emotional intelligence is important.

Working with emotional intelligence in customer service

To get the best results from your customer service you need to manage your customers' emotions. You also need to manage your own emotions.  Here are some tips on providing the best customer service in an emotionally intelligent way.

This is the second article in a two-part series on emotionally intelligent customer service. The first article provided tips 1-5, this one continues with tips 6-10.

Want to develop your levels of emotional intelligence and receive coaching from a top emotional intelligence coach? Sign up for our five star emotional intelligence coaching package and have your emotional intelligence assessed on the MSCEIT as part of that. It could change your life - for the better. Click here to find out more.

Working with emotional intelligence: 6. Don't let feelings sneak in

It is much harder to calm down and stay in control when you are already frustrated than when you are mildly irritated. Therefore, watch out for very early signs that you are getting irritated, so that you can reverse them and return to being cool, calm and collected quickly.

Don't wait for the irritation to build up to full-blown resentment before you notice it.

We practise catching the early warning signs of irritation in our workshop on "How to keep your cool with angry or irritating people". It is interesting to see how many people are often unaware of their first sign or second sign of irritation, and yet the people they are working with pick them up quickly.

This is what happens with your customers too. If you don't notice you have slowed down your speech, or rolled your eyes, or your facial expression has hardened, they will; and they will respond accordingly.

By the way, we have great fun in the workshop as everyone gets a go at trying to stay cool, calm and gorgeous even with someone who repeatedly asks the identical question seven times. Few people stay calm past three questions.

Working with emotional intelligence can help you stay calm and give excellent customer service.

Working with emotional intelligence: 7. Enjoy turning customers around

Mr Heng arrives at the front counter or calls you on the phone and he is rude and insulting. What are your choices?

  • One is to be rude and insulting in return. This isn't good customer service.
  • Another is to become sarcastic or threatening. This isn't good customer service.
  • Another is to think it is great to have someone rude so you can have the challenge of turning them around and charming their socks off! This is good customer service.

Enjoy the challenge of soothing difficult customers and turning them into mellow, eating-out-of-your-hand customers. This attitude to difficult customers gives you far more chance of providing excellent service and far more chance of your enjoying your job.

Working with emotional intelligence can help you get the best results from your customer service, as you need to manage your customers' emotions, and you need to manage your own emotions. This is at the very heart of emotional intelligence.

Working with emotional intelligence: 8. Thank customers

Find something to thank your customers for. It will surprise them and please them, particularly if they are being difficult or unhelpful.

Whether you thank them for telling you how they feel, or for spelling their names or for giving you the right details, it doesn't matter - just thank them.

If you go out of your way to find something nice to thank them for, or to compliment them on, you are on your way to charming them into a better mood.

Want to know how well developed or lacking your emotional intelligence is? Have the MSCEIT conducted and receive coaching on your results. Click here to find out more: www.theeiinstitute.com/professional-tests/mayer-salovey-caruso-emotional-intelligence-test-msceit.htm

Working with emotional intelligence: 9. Sound gorgeous

The voice volume and tone you speak to your customers with can make a great difference to how what you say is received by customers and the emotional impact it has on them.

Are there ever times when your voice has a sarcastic edge to it, or the tone seems to imply that they are stupid or wasting your time? Or maybe you speak too loudly to them? 

If so, what impact do you think this has on them? Yes, they notice and they start to say things like,

  • "Don't you patronise me," or,
  • "I'm not stupid you know", or even
  • "Don't you talk to me in that tone of voice, young lady, I've been around a lot longer than you have."

Then they become angry at you, or decide to lodge a complaint, or to go elsewhere.

Yes, your tone influences the emotions of your customers.

An emotionally intelligent customer service operator can chose the best tone, to convey the best message in the best way possible, to keep the customer in the most receptive frame of mind. This is all part of working with emotional intelligence, and not without it.

This applies to both men and women. In our "How to keep your cool" course we talk about how to sound gorgeous and the men are initially a bit taken aback, but then they laugh a lot about it, and in the end "Be gorgeous" becomes a catch-cry they remember! This may not sound that important here, but in reality it makes a huge difference. Working with emotional intelligence doesn't have to be boring!

Are you aware of your tone of voice? If not, you need to be because your customers are.

Working with emotional intelligence: 10. Say the right words

What you say can also make a great difference to customers and how they feel about the service you are providing. You might have to say "No" to customers, but how you say "No" can make the difference between their feeling satisfied with your explanations and their being affronted and angry about them.

For example, here are two ways of saying "No" - which one would you rather hear if you were a customer?

"No, Mr Arnson, we can't do that, it is against our policies and procedures, you should have read the regulations before you signed the contract."

Or, "Mr Arnson, I can see how frustrated you are by what has happened. Would you like me to go through all the contract details with you so you are confident you know exactly what the regulations say? Then you will know everything will be all right from now on."

Choose your words carefully. They can influence the customer's emotions and their whole impression of the customer service they have received.

Working with emotional intelligence covers many facets of your behaviour. In which areas do you need more emotional intelligence and better customer service? Can you keep your cool and be gorgeous, or do you need to attend our "How to keep your cool with angry customers" workshop? Come along and learn to be gorgeous, no matter what! You'll enjoy your job more and your customers will thank you for it. Happy customers build businesses.

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