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Using Emotional Intelligence to Build Employee/Customer Relationships


By Rhonda Basler | August 1, 2017 | Blog Posts | Customer Engagement Case Studies

What do 90% of top performers in business have in common? Emotional intelligence.1 Their blend of self-awareness and self-management catapults them into the upper echelons, outranking peers that might outscore them on IQ tests.

In the business environment, a high EQ among leadership and managers fosters stronger connections with employees. But it’s also essential to encourage all employees to utilize an EQ approach in their daily responsibilities, especially in regards to developing more meaningful customer experiences and stronger customer relationships.

EQ isn’t just a manager-level requirement.

Frontline associates have one of the toughest jobs on the planet. Every day, they have to handle some degree of indifference, disdain and at times, downright hostility. Every. Single. Day. Such a reality can wear down the resolve, energy and positive attitude of even the most stalwart people…and in the process, keep employee engagement scores low.

Creating an experience that engages customers and employees so that they feel valued, respected and understood is the goal of every customer-facing business. A level of mutual engagement is the key to outstanding customer experience (CX), and EQ is vital to fostering the empathy that forms your CX foundation. Without it, your frontline associates are less equipped to effectively turn a negative or problematic customer situation into a positive experience. An EQ approach empowers employees to turn bad customer situations into more positive ones and ensure good interactions continue to create great customer experiences.

An empathetic culture in the workplace is good for business.

Emotional intelligence not only has a place in the workplace, it’s crucial to empathy, engagement and productivity. Being free to respond to customers with emotional authenticity allows employees to avoid bottling up their emotions. This emotion management, in turn, reduces stress, dismisses fear and encourages positive feelings. In fact, when a company advocates for employees to show compassion, joy and kindness, a supportive emotional culture is created. Research proves it time and again.

The best morale booster for long-term employee engagement success is far more than team-building exercises, inspirational posters or breakroom treats. It’s frontline employees being empowered to act with emotional intelligence when dealing with both their co-workers and customers. Because when an employee asks a customer, “How can I help you?” the answer oftentimes lies beyond solving for the words the customer utters in response. It runs far deeper into the essence of what is not clearly articulated. This is where applying emotional intelligence is vital to building customer relationships. Consider this real-life example.

A recently widowed woman in her 80s called her utility company fearing her electric service would soon be disconnected. She didn’t know how to pay her bill, and through careful listening and gentle questioning, the associate uncovered the real reason behind the call. Never before in her life did she have the responsibility to pay the household bills and didn’t know where to begin. Midsentence, the customer started to cry.

Grief-stricken and alone, the woman needed information, but more than that, she needed compassion. How would you have responded? Carolyn, the customer service associate who took the call, applied excellent emotional intelligence to solve the problem, offering to call her just to walk through the bill-paying process for the next few months. Then she sealed the emotionally intelligent deal by sending the customer a Hallmark card to let her know that she wasn’t alone. Someone was thinking of her, wishing her the best and helping her through a difficult time.

Customers often return these kinds of gesture with notes or cards of appreciation, favorable phone calls and social posts. Stories like these spread throughout the organization and lead to higher employee engagement scores.

Being able to empathize with customers and, more importantly, express support and caring are what separates typical customer service from a differentiated customer experience. With just a simple act in the form of a card, frontline associates become more than a voice, they become the relationship-building part of a company.

Empower the frontline with EQ.

At Hallmark Business Connections, the B2B subsidiary of Hallmark cards, our expertise is fostering the emotional connections that allow businesses to thrive. We empower employees to sympathize, celebrate and connect with customers in an emotionally sincere and authentically rewarding way, allowing them to make a positive difference in their customers’ day. It goes beyond delivering good customer service and creates a customer experience informed by emotional intelligence. With a simple Hallmark card, employees can defuse a volatile mood, console a loss and celebrate an event or occasion—and in the process have a genuine feeling of accomplishment with themselves and their job.

The Customer Care Solution is a simple concept with profound results.

Creating great customer experiences by empowering frontline associates to make meaningful, memorable connections, mend fences, express sympathy and show gratitude—while bringing a smile and brightening a day—is the concept behind Hallmark’s Customer Care Solution. All without adding to call time. With three clicks, associates:

The Customer Care Solution is not just a game changer, it’s a culture changer. Employees like Carolyn feel great that they have a tangible way to show customers that when associates say they care, they mean it. And when frontline staff are empowered and engaged, the results are all positive. Without a doubt, supporting and encouraging an E.Q. approach in the work environment enhances and strengthens the customer experience.

Foster emotional intelligence for a sustainable competitive advantage.

Feedback from clients using the Hallmark Customer Care Solution demonstrates its power to develop empathy resulting from an engagement centered on emotional intelligence.

One client reports that 94% of the company’s frontline participants said the program gave them a sense of personal accomplishment.

Engagement surveys come back with personal stories of how the program allows employees to turn a bad or tense day around, improving productivity.

Customers are equally positive as they call, write back and even send cards to tell the associates how great it feels to receive personalized Hallmark cards.

  • Customer satisfaction ratings are 25 percentage points higher in card recipient groups.
  • Ease of doing business was rated 13 percentage points higher in card recipient group.

When a business environment is conducive and supportive of an E.Q. approach, it creates a reciprocal positive experience where customers feel good about their interaction with the employee and the employee feels good about making a difference in the customers’ lives.

Empowered frontline associates with the right tools and training to sympathize and react to a customer’s emotional state in a supportive and caring way create experiences that keep customers happy and feeling valued. Employees feel more in touch, in control and rewarded in their day-to-day efforts. The end result is higher engagement scores that can’t be matched—even by the best team-building tactics.

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2014/2014/01/09/emotional-intelligence/#7dc041db1ac0
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/emotional-intelligence
  3. https://hbr.org/2016/01/manage-your-emotional-culture

See Rhonda’s post on LinkedIn

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