What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Before we share how to Create a Positive Emotional Connection with Customers using a Call Center, we thought it would be helpful to share insights about emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence (also known as emotional quotient or EQ) in a call center environment is about the Agent's ability to understand and manage the emotions of customers they are servicing. Call Center Representatives (also described as Agents) with a high degree of EQ know what they're feeling, what their emotions mean, and how their emotions can affect the customers they are servicing.
Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist who popularize emotional intelligence, describes five essential elements of a call center Agent who has high EQ:
- Self-awareness – Call Center Agents are self-aware. They always know how they feel and understand how their emotions can affect their interactions with other employees or customers they serve.
- Self-regulation – Call Center Agents can self-regulate, don't have frequent negative emotional customer interactions. They recognize that self-regulation is about controlling their impulses and emotions. These Agents know how to ease tension, manage difficult decisions and conflict.
- Motivation – Call Center Agents are intrinsically motivated, and they value personal development. These Agents are highly driven to be successful. They are motivated to achieve their goals because it helps them grow as an individual.
- Empathy – Call Center Agents can understand where the customers are coming from because they can put themselves in the customer's shoes. These Agents show that they care about helping customers by being empathic.
- Social skills – Call Center Agents have strong social skills and EQ and are good communicators. They are just as effective at handling tough, complex calls as they are with easy calls. They are also good at developing a rapport with customers.
There is much debate whether you have to hire Agents with high emotional intelligence or train them to have high emotional intelligence. Regardless of which approach is used, the more a Call Center Representative is emotionally intelligent in each of the five EQ areas, the more positive emotional connections with customers will occur.
How to Create a Positive Emotional Connection with Customers?
Customers experience emotion when trying to resolve an inquiry or problem using a call center. Using a call center has always been an emotional experience at some level. The essential point is that a call center customer experience (CX) is rarely void of emotion. Unfortunately, many leaders do not sufficiently understand the customer's emotional experience when using a call center because it is seldom measured.
To understand what a positive emotional experience means, we asked customers who used a call center, "What is most important to them for having a positive emotional experience when interacting with a call center Agent?" Most managers think it is customer care or treatment practices. Figure 1 shows that those practices do create a positive customer emotional connection experience using a call center. However, the most important practice for creating a positive emotional connection experience is when the customer's inquiry or problem is resolved in one contact.
Figure 1: Practices that create a positive emotional connection with a customer using a call center
Every organization needs to understand the customer's emotional connection experience when using the call center to resolve an inquiry or problem. Customer emotional experience should not be left to chance. One of the ways to improve CX is to measure and track customer emotions when using the call center to resolve an inquiry or problem. Post-contact surveys can provide insights on what created a perfect, or conversely a totally unacceptable, customer emotion experience for resolving an inquiry or problem when using a call center.
Understanding customer emotional connection experience for resolving an inquiry or problem has become more critical than ever due to increasing call complexity. Given the complexity of a call, customer emotions can be more in the distressed state in many cases. Furthermore, customers' emotions before calling the call center can be varied (e.g., confused, desperate, angry, docile, frustrated, happy). Put differently, a customer's emotions before their interaction with the call center can drastically affect an Agent's ability to create a positive emotional connection experience.
Customer Emotional Connection Experience using a Call Center Research
Figure 2 shows SQM's research for customer emotional connection experience for resolving an inquiry or problem using a call center. To measure customer emotion experience, we use a 5-point rating scale anchored with the perfect rating describing the best and a totally unacceptable rating describing the worst. For example, the data reveals for customer emotional connection experience, 32% of customers would rate their experience as perfect, 9% as frustrating, and 2% as totally unacceptable.
Most managers underestimate the impact that emotions have on Csat, referrals, and retention. SQM data shows a high correlation between Csat and customer emotional connection ratings. Many managers think that customer emotion experience is about soft and fluffy feelings. The reality is that customer emotion experience can be about the journey feelings (e.g., caring, treatment) and/or the journey outcome (e.g., inquiry or problem resolution).
For example, if an Agent showed empathy while resolving a challenging and important issue, a customer's emotional experience will likely be based on the journey and outcome. Thus, most customers who had this type of experience resolving an issue would likely rate their emotional experience as perfect because of the positive journey and outcome experience.
Figure 2: Customer emotional connection experience rating using a call center
Again, creating a positive customer emotional connection should not be left to chance. Every organization needs to understand the customer's emotional experience when using the call center to resolve an inquiry or problem. Most leaders think it is customer care or treatment practices that are most important to customers. However, while these practices help create positive customer emotional connections, what matters the most for creating a positive emotional connection experience is achieving First Call Resolution. Use call center VoC surveys to measure and track customer emotional connection experience and FCR.