Emotional Intelligence in Customer Support

It is more art than science but if a business can get it right, customer satisfaction will follow and employees will find their Customer Experience role more engaging as they become the differentiating factor. Although customer satisfaction feedback or attrition studies can provide an approximate view of a business’s emotional intelligence (EQ), these are often hindsight studies and can in no way gauge the ‘of the moment’ vibe pipeline vital for service excellence.

Higher levels of emotional intelligence among service employees creates miracles. Try these five scientific techniques: 1. Rapport-building.

Listening Skills

Customers want to sense that brands understand them. Without better tools in place, team members are unable to convey this sentiment. There are plenty of ways that you can show you actually hear what a customer is saying in person – from nodding your head to patting your knee to let them know you understand and they are being heard – but on the phone it is more difficult to find a nonverbal cue as effective as these for the listener. Have your agents ask open-ended questions like ‘Tell me more’ and ‘Why is that important to you?’ Employ active listening techniques, and practise repeating back to the customer what she says is important. Have your agents work in spaces free from distraction – like multitasking – when dealing with customers. Think about giving them feedback on great listening, as well as moments when they empathised on the phone. And maybe they did a great job comforting a frustrated customer. This will keep them motivated to practise. Idiomatic can surface quantitative measurements of self-awareness, self-regulation, inner drive, empathy and people skills for your agents.


Cultivating empathy in customer support means helping your team listen actively and feel for their customer. Active listening, empathic phrases and addressing unconscious bias can all help your team develop emotional intelligence, which in turn can increase customer satisfaction. ‘I hear ya’: This is a terrific demo empathiser that also works well with customers. The reference to anger keeps the customer talking, and the statement of understanding indicates that the agent really does want to know what the customer is saying – but make sure it seems spontaneous: canned, insincere statements can animate customer ire. Lastly, encourage your team members to assess themselves as well. Is it anger, joy, sadness or irritability that they’re feeling? As individuals become more aware of their emotions in dealing with customers, they can recognise when their conduct has gone awry, and take action to change it themselves – and can also apply this insight to their interactions with customers, fostering a more empathetic customer culture.


A good host must be able not only to establish a connection with every person who walks through their door, but also to read their emotions. Every greeting, every communication must be unique. Every moment must surprise and outdo the experience of every other customer who has walked before. Being a good host means more than just attending to people’s needs; it means anticipating them. Strong adaptability is rooted in self-awareness, self-regulation, intrinsic motivation, empathy or people skills. And, like musical skills, they are largely honed only through repetition – which could mean regular practice, training programmes, workshops or mentoring programmes for your staff. Social awareness is a central component of adaptability, and refers to the ability to read other people’s emotional cues and body language. One of the hallmarks of mature service is the ability of customer support agents to read when a customer’s frustration or anger has reached a boiling point. Service professionals who are able to read this subtle indicator can take action to calm down the customer while also moving them towards an optimal resolution. Social awareness also relates to a service professional’s ability to identify with their customers’ feelings by saying things such as ‘I understand how frustrating that must be.’ These kinds of remarks help to build trust with customers, but they also contribute to authentic connections between agent and customer.


Support interactions are inherently teamwork situations, including managing not only communications and other elements with one’s colleagues but also one’s own emotions in the face of angry or unhappy customers. Regular meetings (eg, with the entire team, and also one-on-one) and more digital collaboration methods (eg, shared files) can help. Sarah sympathises with her customer, who is upset about the inevitable delay in receiving the service, and listens attentively – taking in the details of his situation and acknowledging the problematic nature of all they have been through; she then offers a reduced rate to compensate for his inconvenience. Emotional intelligence is a trainable skill, so encourage your teams to get feedback from each other, accept it in a positive manner and use it to enhance their performance. They will grow both as professionals and as better customer service providers through an ongoing learning process.

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