Do Customer Service Teams Need Emotional Intelligence Skills?

Does Customer Service Require Emotional Intelligence Skills?

Customer service has taken on new significance since 2020. As organizations innovate and rethink business practices post-pandemic, customer service roles will continue to evolve.

Customer expectations remain high, and a bad customer experience can really hurt your business. In a survey of 15,000 consumers, PwC found that 1 in 3 customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience! 92% of customers will completely abandon a company after two or three bad experiences.

On the flip side of the coin, great customer service can be quite profitable. The same survey found that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. In fact, 49% will make add-on purchases on the spot after receiving a personalized customer service experience. With so much on the line, customer service teams are more important than ever. 

Customer Service Workers are Burned Out

Employees in customer-facing positions have faced many challenges since the pandemic. They not only have to do their work but are also burdened with having to be the face of bad news.

Frontline employees must explain constantly changing policies. They have to apologize for supply chain issues completely out of their control. All while also being overworked due to staff shortages.

According to Forbes, customer service workers are facing increasingly rude and unruly customers across every industry. Frontline workers are expected to be babysitters, therapists and security guards. Providing good service is challenging while also being the face of anything that has gone wrong with a customer’s experience. 

One survey of more than 2,000 workers, found that 76% experienced incivility at least once a month. Additionally, 78% believe bad behavior from customers towards employees is more common than five years ago. They may be right! A similar study in 2012 found that only 61% of respondents reported that it is normal for customers to behave badly. 

Managers must be aware of these issues and help employees deal with stress to prevent burnout. Helping your customer support teams learn the emotional intelligence skills they need to handle angry customers is also a great way to improve customer interactions.

Why are Emotional Intelligence Skills Important in Customer Service? 

At its core, customer service is about building authentic relationships based on trust. Customer service workers need emotional intelligence to connect with customers, manage conflict, demonstrate empathy, and manage stress. Providing excellent customer service requires four critical skills: 

  • Self-Awareness – Being aware of your personal challenges, emotions, triggers, as well as your personal strengths is vital to customer service. Highly self-aware employees will also know what motivates them to do a great job every day.
  • Self-Management – Customer service can be rewarding, but it is also very stressful. Managing an angry customer while maintaining a cool head is an important part of the job. Developing these skills will help workers control their emotions and behaviors and manage stress levels in healthy ways. 
  • Social Awareness – Customer service agents must have the ability to understand the emotional cues of their customers and co-workers. Being aware that a customer is irritated or looking for help is key to providing better service. Empathizing with a customer regarding a service issue is always the first step to recovering from a bad customer experience. 
  • Relationship Management – Emotionally intelligent individuals will be able to develop positive relationships with clients and build trust and credibility. These important social skills will lead to return customers and increased sales.

How Can Managers Improve Emotional Intelligence in Their Teams?

A great customer service experience starts with a great employee experience, so leaders must also be emotionally intelligent. Managers must practice the same skills they want to see in their teams. A supportive environment, building authentic relationships, and modeling healthy stress management are all important components of a workplace culture where employees can thrive. Providing training and development opportunities to sharpen these skills can be helpful for the whole team.