Dick Bourke of Scorebuddy shares his advice for improving CX with emotional intelligence in the contact center.
Contact centers that invest in customer experience have a clear competitive advantage. They differentiate themselves from others by standing out throughout the customer journey, and your employees are at the forefront of these interactions
Starting with your executive team and trickling down through management and to your agents, your employees are the voice of your company—they represent who you are. In particular, your call center agents are often the first to speak with your customers, and so they bear the brunt of responsibility when it comes to ensuring a positive customer experience. And that means creating strong emotional connections with customers, enough to earn their support.
Therefore, it is critical to train all of your agents and your leadership team to demonstrate emotional intelligence. But first, let’s talk about what emotional intelligence is and how it can affect your business’s success.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to recognize and regulate emotions—yours and those of others. Someone who displays emotional intelligence can use emotions to direct their thinking and actions. They also have the ability to understand others’ emotions and manage those to help them gain success and satisfaction in work.
How Does Emotional Intelligence Help You Be Successful?
Companies that are committed to emotional intelligence outshine the competition. They constantly deliver better call center performance and provide excellent customer experiences. They do this by dedicating resources to their call center agents in terms of performance training, measurement, management, and emotional intelligence.
- 86 percent of customers claim that a positive emotional connection with a contact center agent would make them likely to do business with you again.
- 95 percent of purchasing decisions are made subconsciously (emotionally), meaning that your business relies on emotional intelligence for success.
Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important for the C-Suite?
Companies that promote emotional intelligence from the top down have a better culture. It immerses your business in personal development and quality communication by instilling the importance to the customer experience. Overall, it also helps you create a more collaborative and productive environment.
Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important for Leaders?
According to a research paper published in the Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, “Emotional intelligence has been identified as the most important element that leads to effective leadership.” These leaders make better decisions in the workplace, which in turn boosts employee satisfaction.
Leaders who demonstrate emotional intelligence:
- Have more emotionally stable employees who tend to be satisfied with their work.
- Are more sensitive to their workers’ needs and challenges, which helps them boost employee engagement.
- Tend to be more likable and empathetic.
- Are better at conflict resolution and communication, which is key to building meaningful relationships within your business.
Why Is Emotional Intelligence Important for Call Center Agents?
The call center is where emotional intelligence, or the lack thereof, will be felt most strongly. Your call center agents have a tremendous opportunity to build relationships, reduce churn, and increase lifetime value. They can solve customer problems, bring to light new products and company initiatives, and spread the word about your company. And since every action is complex, there’s endless potential to delight the customer along their journey.
6 Emotionally Intelligent Behaviors in the Call Center
According to research by TalentSmart, high-performing agents score top marks for emotional intelligence. You can’t have one without the other. The key is your call center environment. It must be customer-oriented and focused on emotional connections.
Hiring agents with empathy isn’t enough. You have to create a system and a culture that makes empathy a priority in your call center. Emotional intelligence should be at the heart of every agent’s actions. It requires your agents to act, respond, and behave in certain ways during every customer interaction.
And while emotional intelligence can look different for every agent, there are six crucial elements.
1. Anticipate Customer Requests
Agents should pay attention to tone and other verbal cues so that they are well equipped to handle the call, whichever way it goes. They should be able to recognize trends and pinpoint patterns, to shorten the time to call resolution.
2. Deliver Explanations and Justifications
As needed, agents should ask clarifying questions to ensure they fully understand the customer challenge so that it can be properly resolved. By providing facts, explanations, and justifications, agents can provide customers with greater context and knowledge, which improves the emotional connection.
3. Educate Customers
Once the customer has their resolution, agents need to take the interaction to the next level by offering additional information on the product or services available to help them currently and in the future. Agents should look for teachable moments and opportunities to educate customers about your products, procedures, and company culture.
4. Build Rapport
Agents can start conversations with a simple “How are you?” to show interest and care. They can also then share about themselves to build a relationship. Over-communication can and should be encouraged to build a connection.
5. Provide Emotional Support
If a customer is upset, annoyed, or confused, the agent should be able to recognize the mood and offer empathy and support. It’s all about listening and asking the right questions. Remember, a little empathy goes a long way. It helps you connect and encourages your customers to be more optimistic.
6. Offer Personal Information
Agents shouldn’t be afraid to share a few personal insights about themselves to create a connection with the customer. It’s a basic tool in every agent’s kit. You can discuss everything from the weather to the city to the company’s initiatives.
At its core, emotional intelligence is about displaying a little empathy, which can go a long way toward providing excellent customer service.
Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?
So the question becomes “Can emotional intelligence be taught?” The simple answer is yes.
You can teach your employees to recognize moments in the customer journey where they can develop an emotional connection with customers. They can then be trained to improve their soft skills from the outset and to have a conversation with customers, not a script.
The key is to make sure that your emotional intelligence training is a continuous process and cycle where well-trained agents and leaders instruct others. In this way, they can pass on their experiences and patterns of good behavior.
Some things to keep in mind for emotional intelligence training:
Provide Your Agents With Context
When an agent doesn’t have the full picture of a customer’s history with your company—their every interaction—they won’t be able to respond appropriately. By uniting your customer’s information all into a single CRM system, you ensure that your agent is always fully informed.
Go Off Script
Scripts can be useful, but they can hinder your agents’ emotional intelligence. It can be difficult to be sensitive and empathetic with a script. Customers expect personalized service, so you need to empower your agents to handle unique situations based on the scenario, not procedures.
Build Your Call Center From the Customer’s Perspective
Instead of using menus, something that most customers hate, update your call center to incorporate empathy throughout the system. This could mean using an IVR menu or offering a verbal prompt to press a number if you’re experiencing poor call quality, which demonstrates that your call center empathizes with their situation.
Emotional Intelligence Training Tips:
- Make sure your agents think about their own tone first—how they sound and come across—before they think about the customer’s voice. Put your agents through call simulations to gauge their reactions and take note of their tone.
- Teach your agents to deal with stress and irritation without passing that frustration on to the customer. Create strategies that help your agents deal with pressure, tension, stress, and anxiety.
- Identify patterns in your agent’s behavior that can be nurtured or curbed. The goal is to ingrain positive actions.
- Train your agents to eliminate bias and preexisting ideas before dealing with your customers. It’s an excellent way to help put themselves in the shoes of the customer.
Beyond training, it’s also essential to have processes in place that make emotional intelligence a priority. What this means is that you need to measure your contact center customer experience and set up a baseline for growth.
Can Emotional Intelligence Be Measured?
You don’t have to guess at how effective your leaders or agents are at emotional intelligence. Instead, you can set performance baselines, which you can then benchmark against for continuous improvement.
For optimal results, where emotional intelligence helps you be successful, each customer touchpoint should be monitored and quantified in a measurable way that ties to direct action. The key is to treat each customer interaction as a critical moment in the customer journey. It should be viewed as an opportunity to build equity and lifetime value.
This starts with goal setting, quality assurance monitoring, and agent self-scoring. If you empower and enable your customer service team to build emotional connections with your customers, you can improve the entire customer experience. And by tracking call center performance, you’ll automatically help your agents create strong emotional connections with customers.
How Scorebuddy Can Help Encourage and Improves Emotional Intelligence Through Self-Management
According to a study by Kiffin-Petersen and Soutar, the most effective customer service takes place when personal initiative is taken by the people working with your customers. That’s why it’s best practice to enable your call center agents to take their emotional intelligence into their own hands. This will help them understand how they’re doing and how they can improve to support your company’s overall goals and communicate more clearly with customers.
Scorebuddy helps you monitor quality and call center agent performance metrics for every interaction, which helps you improve the overall customer experience.
Through self-evaluated scorecards, your agents can determine how well they handle every customer service interaction. The scorecard can help your agents measure:
- How well they recognized the customer’s mood.
- How well they provided the customer what they wanted.
- Whether they changed the customer’s perception, either positively or negatively.
Based on how your agent answers these questions, you can gather a baseline for their emotional intelligence. From there, you can recognize top performers, leverage positive outcomes during onboarding, set up ongoing coaching, workshop to provide skills and techniques, and role-play for better training.
Scorebuddy helps you open a dialogue with your call center team about emotional intelligence to ensure that it’s developed and improved constantly.
When emotional intelligence is placed at the heart of your call center, it can have innumerable positive results for your company. It can directly impact your bottom line and help you improve both your CSAT and NPS scores, which ultimately is responsible for the success of your company as a whole.
Learn how Scorebuddy can help you take emotional intelligence to the next level at your business by providing you with a cloud-based contact center QA system for quality monitoring.
This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Scorebuddy – View the original post
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Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.