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Mark Murphy

Quality Insider

Do You Like Friendly or Fast Customer Service?

How to use emotional intelligence in customer-service training

Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 14:39

Here’s a little quiz: Imagine you’re going to your local grocery store to buy some milk. How would you like the store employees to interact with you?

• Choice A: They’re friendly, warm, and build personal rapport with me. I know we’ve got a relationship.
• Choice B: They keep our interactions as brief as possible. They get to the point.

If you’re like 92 percent of people we survey, you picked choice A: You want warm friendly employees.

But now, let me change that quiz just a little. Imagine it's late at night, you’re dressed for bed, it's cold and rainy outside and you've just realized that you have to go to the grocery store because you ran out of milk and need it for the kids and coffee in the morning. Now, when you go to that grocery store in your pajamas, how would you like the store employees to interact with you?

• Choice A: They’re friendly, warm, and build personal rapport with me. I know we’ve got a relationship.
• Choice B: They keep our interactions as brief as possible. They get to the point.

You probably changed your choice, right? If the answer is yes, it’s because your psychological state changed. You’re still buying milk from a grocery store, but you’re in a very different psychological state.

The real problem here is that when employees get trained to deliver great customer service, they usually get trained only to do the warm and friendly stuff. They almost never get trained to read and respond to the changing psychological states of their customers.

If you sell high-tech software, your customers will likely be in one kind of psychological state five minutes after they sign the contract and then a very different psychological state when they struggle to make the software work.

If you’re a nurse or doctor in a hospital, your patients are in a wide range of psychological states. Just think about delivering a baby vs. being in the ICU vs. the emergency room.

Your customers will have widely varying psychological states depending on where they are in their interactions with you, what kind of interactions they’re having, and whether those interactions are anticipated or a surprise.

So first you need to map out where your customers’ psychological states tend to change across the full range of their dealings with you. For a grocery store, you may see changes in psychological states across times of day. For a software company, you may see changes across months or years as customers buy, install, struggle with, and eventually master, your software.

And second, you then need to train your employees to assess, and respond to, those customers’ changing psychological states. To get started with this training project, Leadership IQ offers an e-learning webinar called “Seven Psychological Secrets of Great Customer Service,” which discusses the following:

• The four most common customer personalities and the psychological tactics that work best for each type
• How one unexpected gesture can give your customers a “wow” experience
• Why paraphrasing the words of angry customers can make them furious (and what you should say instead)
• How to plant a positive emotional image in customers’ minds to increase their patience and trust
• The one question you should always ask whenever a customer calls you to report a problem
• How a specific type of compliment called “positive labeling” can radically improve customers’ behavior (e.g., turning cranky customers into reasonable ladies and gentlemen)
• Why “process transparency” greatly relaxes customers and reduces their anxiety
• How something as simple as installing a mirror can improve everyone’s behavior (including customers, employees, and managers)
• How to “individualize and personalize” your customers so they feel an intense emotional connection to your staff (and vice versa)
• Why beginning conversations with, “How are you doing today?” irritates most customers, and what you should say instead
• Four questions you should insert into every customer service satisfaction survey
• Three questions that every customer wants you to answer during customer service interactions
• How to apologize to a customer and win back his loyalty
• How to use “emotional intelligence” instead of fake-sounding scripts

Truly engaged employees drive the best results, but only great leadership can invoke it from a workforce.


About The Author

Mark Murphy’s picture

Mark Murphy

Mark Murphy is the founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, offering consulting and business services in leadership development, management training, employee engagement, goal setting, motivation, team building, change management, innovation, quality control, and peak performance. The company’s groundbreaking research is changing how companies view employee engagement, hiring, and leadership. Murphy is the author of Hundred Percenters (McGraw-Hill, 2013), Hiring for Attitude (McGraw-Hill, 2011), and Hard Goals (McGraw-Hill, 2010). Murphy lectures frequently and his leadership techniques and research have been featured in mass media including Forbes, ABC’s 20/20, and NPR.