Emotionally Intelligent Customer Service

– Morgan Stewart

“Why are people talking about emotional intelligence and customer service?” was a question heard recently from a Senior Club Manager.A fair question and one that has five points that answer it in a way that demonstrates how to partner the principles of Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence and customer service.

We are in the Hospitality business, fighting for the discretionary spend of our customers and the aim of hospitality is to be ‘hospitable’, which can be easier said than done in businesses that generally say they know all about customer service.

1. Self Awareness

As with personal self-awareness whereby you reflect and recognise your strengths weaknesses, drives, values and goals then take responsibility for their impacts on others, businesses need to apply this same principal of self-awareness to itself. Corporate Self Awareness is when businesses undertake these same processes for an objective analysis of their customer service strategy and levels, responses, the empowerment of their staff to create yes outcomes and then what it authentically means to their customers.

2. Self Regulation

Self-regulation links to self aware in that it is about recognising and responding to the emotions of others knowing and accepting that there are negatives in your workplace and then over time trying to make them positives. An example could be that the business is aware that café customers are being served coffee in a militaristic fashion by staff concerned with the volume of orders and the tasks associated with making coffee. There is often little upselling taking place and with the great GP in coffee, cakes and tortes, encouraging staff to interact with their customers, to get them to spend a little more time in our venues each visit and make the purchase of coffee ‘experiential’ through encouraging an extra shot, a cake of the day, etc. increasing revenue, improving behavioural interactions so that the personal experience of the customers is a positive

3. Social Skills

We are in the people business. Our customers seek consistency and relationships with us that lead them to return to our businesses. This is one of the foundations of good will. Repeat business keeps us in business should become your mantra. With the large number of hospitality venue choices available and their similarity of product offer, our people are the differentiator to whether customers are one time visitors who sign in as temporary members or repeat customers who join your clubs and keep coming back. Have your ‘aces in their places’ by having staff that are highly affiliative in front facing service roles. Have staff who are highly aesthetic in food roles because they care about how they contents of the plates look. Don’t put square pegs into round holes, by putting numerically focused people into meet and greet roles as you are setting them up to fail and then your business fails.

4. Empathy

It could be taken as somewhat brutal, but there’s a distinct line between empathy and sympathy. In the emotional ‘fight or flight’ some staff become Sigmund Freud in their efforts to make people feel better. We can all probably recall a staffer that was fully involved with a lot of other staff and customers problems and spent quite some time each day talking about them in a group therapy session behind the bar or trying to self justify their actions. Not entirely productive to the business that wants their staff to understand and listen to their customers but in a way that allows a professional distance to remain objective, do what they can in a positive way, refer to management if necessary, but to focus in on delivering great customer service to all the customers that they’ll see that day.

5. Motivation

Being able to motivate oneself to achieving success for the sake of success is the last foundation of Goleman’s emotional intelligence platform and a learned personal skill. No stranger to successful businesses is Continuous Improvement under the Deming model for example (which outlines “Plan-Do- Check-Act”) as a way to implement, measure progress and then make incremental changes to refine positive outcomes.

In conclusion, managing ones own emotions (not accepting responsibility for your own emotions is a big issue in customer service interactions), being aware of the emotions of others (being able to read others and being able to respond appropriately to others) and importantly in Customer Service being able to dove tail the wants and needs of others with the organization through the staff member interaction with the customer are critical for businesses to address in order to move forward.

Being prepared to undertake objective review of their current activities and strategy, to put the right people into the right roles, to develop and use people skills to positively deal with people and to use continuous improvement to determine their return on investment are taking steps and actions to ensure that customers keep returning to them.

Morgan Stewart is a guest contributor to the Allied Risk Clubs Newsletter and is an experienced Club Senior Manager, a member of the Club Managers Association of Australia, Australian Human Resources Institute and is accredited in Hogan Behavioural Assessments, which he has used with wide success within the Club Industry.

Morgan Stewart credits one of his mentor’s Mr. Paul Lyons for beginning his journey exploring the relationships between EQ and Customer Service through Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ”

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