Having an excellent product or service is not enough to drive sales nowadays. Consumers don’t just buy a product. They want to have a great experience before, during and after the sale process. It requires a lot of attention to detail from brands to get it all right. This is why Customer Experience (CX) is a key factor for the growth and sustenance of many businesses.

Customer experience is a term that gets thrown around a lot these days.

But what exactly is it?

What is Customer Experience?

Forrester Research defines customer experience as:

“How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”

Upon closer inspection of that definition, we can see that the whole concept has two main elements: perception and interaction.

Customer perception is the overall impression of a brand and can be a result of single or multiple interactions. Customer perception is typically affected by advertising, reviews, public relations, social media, personal experiences, and other channels.

On the other hand, customer interaction refers to the various touch points. Those can range from talking to customer support agent on call, self-service options or live chat, etc. across the buyer’s journey.

With that in mind, managing customer perception is crucial. Optimizing every interaction channel is one of the most important things brands should be doing.

This is especially important in today’s modern digital era where customers are highly informed and more connected than ever. A good experience by a customer can boost a brand’s reputation but a bad one can entail a number of negative consequences.

Again, having a solid CX plan is a key factor in today’s world.

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Customer Experience

Now let’s shift gears to emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a psychological theory that was created by Peter Salovey and John Mayer. They defined it as:

The ability to perceive emotions. To access and generate emotions so as to assist thought. To understand emotions and emotional knowledge. And to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth.

In plain English, EQ is the ability to understand people’s feelings, what drives them and how they are feeling. Which creates a more meaningful interaction. Think of it like being able to walk into a meeting and you can pick up the vibe of everyone in the entire room.

According to Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence has five core components:

  • Self-awareness – the ability to recognize and understand your moods and emotions, and how they affect others
  • Self-regulation – the ability to control impulses and moods, and to think before acting
  • Internal motivation – being driven to pursue goals for personal reasons, rather than for some kind of reward
  • Empathy – the ability to recognize and understand others’ motivations, which is essential for building and leading teams successfully
  • Social skills – the ability to manage relationships and build networks

But what does it have to do with brands creating a great customer experience for their customers?

A lot.

Most people like to think that the choices they make result from rational analysis. In reality, emotions greatly influence our judgments. Emotion is the driving force behind every human interaction. It influences most of the decisions we make in our day-to-day lives including our purchasing decisions.

Advertising research reveals that the consumer’s emotional response to an ad has a far greater influence on their reported intent to buy a product. Additionally, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions rather than information. They zone out the brand attributes, features, and facts laid out.

If that’s not enough to convince you, chew on this. According to a study conducted by Walker, by the end of the year 2020, customer experience will go beyond product and price as the key brand differentiator.

That is why nearly 89% of brands are seeking ways to differentiate themselves from their competition. They’re focused on improving the customer experience by improving product quality and meeting customer service expectations.

Ways you can use EQ to deliver the best customer experience:

EQ in the workplace

Self-awareness is one of the core components of emotional intelligence. If you don’t understand your own behaviors and motivations, it’s impossible to develop an understanding of others. With that being said, EQ has a strong impact on organizational performance.

Sanofi, the French pharmaceutical company, focused on the emotional intelligence skills of its sales force. They boosted annual performance by 12%. Additionally, after Motorola provided emotional intelligence training for staff in a manufacturing plant, the productivity shot up 90%.

Integrating EQ in your workplace can create a positive and motivated atmosphere for your staff. High EQ workplaces experience high employee engagement while low EQ workplaces experience high burnout, low productivity, and ultimately, declining sales.

An emotionally intelligent staff is one of the key components of the organization’s success in delivering the best customer experience.

EQ in customer service

Emotional intelligence in your customer service staff also prepares them to handle difficult situations with patience.

For example, you have an angry customer who is using harsh words and threatening to post his or her negative experience on social media. Instead of showing negative emotion, an emotionally intelligent customer service representative will control his or her feelings. They will empathize with the dissatisfied client using kind words and offering an instant solution to the issue.

Ultimately, it can change the course of the entire experience of the customer. Especially if you’re a SaaS company battling to reduce your churn rate.

EQ in customer engagement

Customers are very sensitive to poor service or negative behavior. A single bad interaction with a potential customer can change his or her entire perception of your business. Oftentimes, this displeasure arises from an employee who lacks the interpersonal skills needed for a position that places them in front of clients.

Interpreting your customers’ emotions while communicating with them would lead to more positive engagement. Engagement takes various forms, such as social media interactions, email messages, live chat sessions, as well as in-store experiences.

All these interactions determine how customers feel about your brand.

EQ in sustaining client relationships

A good business relationship is based on open communication, trust, and empathy. Which is why emotional intelligence plays a vital role in not only acquiring new customers but also sustaining a positive relationship with current clients.

Having emotionally intelligent people in your staff would lead to stronger client relationships. Your company should aim to constantly look for ways to keep your clients feel appreciated and satisfied. You can do this through personalized communication and service that is tailored to suit the needs of individual clients.

How Are you thinking about EQ?

If you’re serious about competing on more than just price or features, do an audit of your current experience. Take time to think your organization, customer experience, etc. and put yourself in your customers’ shoes. You’ll be surprised by what you find and how much a differnce you can make with a little focus.