Training Emotional Intelligence Improves the Customer Experience [Empathetic Listening Skills]

Category: Call Center Tips, Employee Engagement, Training
Posted by: Greg Alcorn on January 31, 2012
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Self-awareness, self-discipline and empathy are core components of what used to be called “character” but is now understood as something more–much more.

Emotional Intelligence is an aptitude at the center of success in all aspects of human life.

The emotionally adept display the ability to manage personal feelings well, and to read and deal effectively with other people’s feelings.

Few things are more frustrating than a feeling you’re not “being heard.” You are looking for a certain outcome and not getting it, despite your attempt to communicate what you want and how you want it.

Do you remember the last time you had to deal with someone who did not seem to have any interest in your desired outcome? Did they “tune you out?” Or perhaps they were pretending to listen, but you could tell by their responses that they were not following you.

How much better does it feel when you are speaking and the other person is checking in with you periodically to make sure they understand. It shows their involvement, what a relief! For example, you say what you want, and they listen, and to make sure they understood you, they say something like, “let me see if I am hearing you correctly, you are asking for __________?”

Listening in this way and checking in allows you to be clear. Perhaps you don’t understand exactly what the other person wants. When you ask for clarification by rephrasing their statement as a question, it also gives them the opportunity to respond more fully.

Sometimes this clarifies things for the other party too. Hearing their concern phrased as a question gives them valuable feedback and the ability to make themselves better understood.

Empathy, simply put, is the ability to know how another person feels.

Sympathy is different from empathy. In Red Cross training, the instructor tells the students, “Don’t let the drowning person drown you.” Sympathy can drag you down into another person’s upset state, and if you become upset yourself, you cannot help the other person.



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Empathetic Listening is a commitment. It shows you are engaged, you are fully present in the conversation, you are all there. You cannot be halfway about it.

Empathetic listening will save you a lot of time and effort. Really, you’d be surprised how effective it is! Instead of being anxious and distracted, feeling desperate to impose your own “solution” on the other person, you allow yourself to receive their message, and often they will come up with solutions on their own.

What is the main complaint of a customer? “This thing doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.”

What is crucial in this situation is to relax, let go of any unhelpful thoughts you might have, like, “any five-year old could work this out, why can’t this person understand something so simple…” and just tune in to them instead.

They are expressing frustration.

A core component of Emotional Intelligence is for you to realize their frustration has nothing to do with you. Do not take it on! Manage your self, manage your feelings. The more you can do that, the more comfortable the person on the other end of the line will feel, the more they’ll relax too, and allow you to assist them.

First of all, you must allow yourself to “agree” with their state. This does not mean you get frustrated too! Nor does it mean you agree with their statement. You simply agree that they are annoyed, irritated, whatever it is.

“I hear you” is a great phrase. “Tell me more” is also very effective.

Remember it is not your function to try to talk them out of being upset. It is, instead, your function to “take them by the hand and lead them to the promised land” of customer satisfaction.

You can do it! It’s not even that hard, really. All you have to do is remember: this person wants most to be heard, to be important, to matter. They want you to hear them. Do it! Listen to them.

Allow your customer the dignity of their process. They are having difficulty. You are there to assist. The more you listen, with real perception, the more quickly and easily you can give them what they want.

Keep on checking in. Keep on asking questions–at the right time (this is not an interrogation!) Take notes as you listen, wait for a pause, then take the opportunity to clarify. Ask, “Let me make sure I’m hearing you correctly. You are experiencing this kind of problem?”

It cannot be overemphasized: This Is Not About You. The customer is not attacking YOU. They are expressing frustration… The sooner you can put them at ease and get to the real issue, the more satisfied everyone will be.

Make sure your customer’s are treated with the principles of Emotional Intelligence. They deserve it and your reputation does too.

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Posted Under: Call Center Tips, Employee Engagement, Training