30 June 2021
Aaron Hines, CEO of Clarity Education shares his thoughts on EQ
Life as we know it has changed.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Certainly change isn’t anything new, the modern world is all about inertia - moving forward - through progress and innovation. However, under “normal” circumstances, change generally occurs over a period of time, allowing us an opportunity to process, acknowledge and accept the new reality. The abruptness and degree of constant change which we’ve faced recently has been disruptive and for some, overwhelming.
Through this shared experience, one basic fact has re-emerged, we are all emotional beings and our ability to recognise our own emotions, as well as those of others, is paramount.
As the business landscape continues to shift in an evolving world of artificial intelligence and cost-efficiency improvements, the ability to connect with people becomes increasingly important.
Information Technology has transformed the way we do businesses in every way, from boosting productivity and cutting costs to tracking efficiencies and adjusting processes in real-time. There are apps for everything! Managing calendars, finances, and even auto-responding to customer inquiries. IT has taken over so much human interaction in the day-to-day operations of the business, even more so in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic and the imposed push into the digital world.
However, customers are seeking less automated responses and more human interaction to develop genuine connections with organisations. Employees want to be connected to their company to be more successful at their jobs. By developing Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and promoting mindfulness, organisations can create more authentic experiences for customers and improve job performance within their workforce.
When most people hear the term ‘emotional intelligence’ or ‘mindfulness’ thick clouds of patchouli come to mind, but as my colleague Ray Good, founder of the Goodplace, a mental fitness, high performance and mindfulness coach, “it’s mindfulness without the candles and sandals”. Now is the time to move past that stereotype and understand that EQ (and mindfulness) is a foundational skill that can be applied to improve your personal life, your professional life and most interestingly, a business strategy.
What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?
Emotional intelligence (EQ) by definition is “the ability to recognise and manage emotions by being aware of your own and handling them appropriately, as well as correctly identifying and reacting to the emotions of others.”
Broken down, EQ is the ability to understand emotions (your own and others) and empathise with those emotions to respond to them properly.
It is the number one attribute of successful Leaders with 90 per cent of top performers in organisations shown to have a high EQ. Furthermore, leaders with high EQ can have self-awareness, harness self-control and fine-tuned social awareness to create positive and genuine relationships with their colleagues and thriving work environments for their staff. If you think back on your career or life, can pinpoint one (or possibly two) ‘leaders’ that have possessed defined EQ attributes? Think about how they made you feel about your work or your attitude towards something. Did you feel seen? Inspired? Welcomed to speak up? Remember, leaders are not always managers, they can be teachers, role models, mentors or even parents. EQ proficient people can be found in almost all phases in your life.
EQ in the workplace
According to Dale Carnegie “when dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.”
This means that people are inherently emotional beings that need respect, validation and empathy to live their everyday lives. The ability to understand and identify the emotions of customers, co-workers and other stakeholders can play a significant role in both employee and customer retention,which will inevitably have a positive impact on business performance.
There are 5 elements to building your EQ in the workplace:
1. Self-awareness – the ability to recognise and understand your emotions and their effect on others.
2. Self-regulation – the ability to stop and think about your choices and actions before acting
3. Internal motivation – a passion for your work that goes beyond transactional, such as learning and experience
4. Empathy – the ability to understand and support the emotions of other people
5. Social skills – the ability to manage relationships and build networks.
So why is EQ important in customer service?
As we are aware, every interaction you have with a customer is a chance to build positive experiences and trust for the organisation and brand. Emotional intelligence (EQ) plays a role in understanding who your customers are and why they have chosen your particular organisation. EQ in a customer journey mapping scenario can track the emotional interaction a customer has from the strategy phase through to the product or service they have received or purchased. This can also be applied to every member of the organisation, whether their customers are external or internal.
No matter what your role is in the organisation, or who the customer is that you provide a service for, improving personal and professional EQ will provide the foundational tools and insights to better recognise and organise your stress, improve work performance and build authentic relationships.
How does it apply to my career?
Social-awareness provides invaluable insights into market trends, consumer behaviours and the individuality of a customer. It is through connecting to a customer's uniqueness, on an emotional level, to establish trust and transition away from transactional relationships to authentic ones. Your attuned social awareness can provide you with the opportunity to delight your customers and provide them with genuine value and a point of difference over your competitors.
Self-awareness is the understanding of where and how you need to adjust your emotive state to embrace your customers in their uniqueness. For example, what does your tone say? How is your attitude affecting them? Are you taking the time to build an authentic relationship?
Self-regulation can happen during customer interactions. You may need to assess and reassess the environment to decide how you are going to react. This could happen in a matter of seconds or build and build over several minutes. In either case, understanding your triggers and stressors and regulating yourself to defuse them, is the true art of EQ.
It has to be said - Self-regulation can take years to master, but every single day you are making those small changes to better react is a huge step in your EQ journey!
Internal motivation is knowing that every interaction is a chance to build a connection and foster a better relationship with the customer and the organisation. Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care”.
Empathy is the number one skill in the EQ toolbox that takes the least amount of effort. It is just a simple question, ‘how does this interaction make the other person feel?’
Once you have asked this question of yourself, you can make small changes to your attitude that may have a positive impact on customers, encourage repeat orders and drive recommendations. Perhaps switch your business tone for a conversational and friendly one, or try to make small talk. Ask your customer about themselves or bring up something big in the news you can connect with. By showing a bit of your personality, you allow the customer an opportunity to share some of theirs; then you apply one of the most important aspects of empathy... active listening.
Emotional Intelligence is a learnt skill that requires a shift in mindset, and if you work on it, it can be a powerful tool in your professional and personal life. More and more organisations are reaping the benefits of training employees in the application of EQ. Just like technical skills, emotional intelligence also needs proper training and development to thrive.
Dedicating time to improving your EQ will boost productivity, relationships, and employee retention. Using EQ in business modelling and strategy can yield rewarding results and return business. Many organisations are now including EQ in professional development requirements to build a more connected workforce.
Today’s world may be unpredictable and constantly changing, but we can all benefit from closer relationships, genuine interactions and a deeper connection to ourselves and our everyday lives.
CSIA online, in partnership with ClarityEdu, are currently building a suite of Customer Experience Emotional Intelligence (CXEQ) micro courses to help customer service professionals build stronger EQ for a more connected workplace.