5 Ways Your Answering Service Can Practice Emotional Intelligence When Interacting with Customers

Customers tend to call support when they’re experiencing a problem — they think they were billed incorrectly, they can’t assemble a product right, they have a question about your services — and to top it off, they often spend time sitting on hold or being transferred to different departments.

The result? Frustrated customers at the end of their fuse.

As a business, developing strong customer relationships should be your #1 priority. Strong connections can lead to loyal clients, positive reviews (online and off), and ultimately, increased sales.

Answering services can help your company build positive buyer relationships by practicing emotional intelligence when interacting with both new and existing customers.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to acknowledge and regulate your own emotions and recognize emotions in others. Practicing EI regularly can help people navigate various social interactions and conflicts, especially in business.

Empathy, clear communication, reasoning, and stress management are all hallmarks of someone with a high EI.

It’s easy to bring EI into your daily conversations with customers simply by practicing a few of these customer-centric tips:

  • Determine what the customer needs and how they want to interact
  • Provide context and additional information
  • Anticipate requests to streamline the process
  • Offer emotional support for a more personal touch
  • Be authentic and go off-script when necessary

Implement these strategies, and the way you answer business calls can improve your overall customer satisfaction.

Determine What the Customer Needs and How They Want to Interact

When your receptionists answer the phone, they never know what to expect. A customer can be angry, confused, frustrated, or excited. Some callers are chatty, while others want a quick question answered.

Either way, your representatives need to know how to respond to a customer based on the situation. This requires representatives to be able to gauge what the caller is feeling and what their goals are. Sounds simple enough, but without body language, communication can be quite difficult. The best way for customer service reps to truly understand what the caller wants and needs is by practicing reflective listening. This technique requires listening to what the caller is saying, interpret their message, and then respond by summarizing the objective of the call. Once they’re on the same page, they can come up with an appropriate course of action.

Here’s an example of how an emotionally intelligent representative could practice reflective listening while dealing with a difficult customer:

  • Customer: “It took two weeks for me to get my order, and it’s the completely wrong product! I’ve been on hold forever — is this how you treat all your customers?!”
  • Representative Response: “I’m so sorry you had to wait. From my understanding, you need to exchange the product you received with something different or return it for a refund. Is that correct?”

The first part of the response shows empathy for the customer and the time they spent on hold, while the second sentence repeats address the purpose of the call directly. After confirming the issue at hand, the receptionist can then walk the caller through the next steps.

Provide Context and Additional Information

Facts and explanations can provide customers with more context, which helps callers understand why you’re going about things in a certain way and can help them feel better about the situation.

With understanding, comes smoother communication and a calmer customer experience.

With that in mind, caller support reps can go above and beyond by providing additional information. By educating customers on the product or services, virtual receptionists can take the interaction to the next level.

They can do this by outlining the next steps, addressing common follow-up questions, and talking customers through each step they’re doing on the other end of the phone.

Transparency is key, and whether that means talking specifically about their problem, procedures, or other products, clear communication can help them rest assured.

Anticipate Requests to Streamline the Process

Sitting on the phone, waiting to speak to customer support is a complete time suck. For many consumers, there’s nothing worse and they will try just about any option before having to call in.

Most customers want to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and as a service provider, you should too. The faster you can resolve their issues, the shorter hold times will be, and the better overall customer support you can provide.

By keeping hold times low, and operating with efficiency, your answering service can demonstrate that your company cares about your customers and their time.

To improve your customer service, anticipate what your customers need, and provide several options to address their concerns.

Interactive voice response or an automated menu can redirect them to the right support agent so it can be resolved quickly.

You can also speed up the process by providing self-service options, like chatbots, FAQ sections, and search functions.

While speaking to a real-life person is important for solving complex issues and building customer relationships, nearly 70% of customers prefer to use self-service options.

Your company can use that to your advantage by servicing some of your customers online, so you can provide better service on your caller support channels.

Offer Emotional Support for a More Personal Touch

If a customer is expressing frustration or is upset, a service agent should offer empathy and support.

Asking questions and listening to their answers can go a long way. Displaying empathy can help customer service reps connect with the person on the other end of the phone, and help callers feel like they’re being heard.

Questions such as “How are you?” and “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” provide opportunities for callers to tell representatives what they need.

Responding with empathetic phrases such as, “I’m sorry to hear that,” “Let’s see if we can solve this for you,” and “That sure sounds frustrating,” can show that the customer service rep is on the customer’s side.

Be Authentic and Go Off Script When Necessary

Have you ever heard different strokes for different folks? No caller is the same, so they often need different approaches.

While scripts are valuable because they ensure a professional conversation and reflect the company’s brand, they can still be a hinder the personal connection that customers are looking for.

Instead of robotically reading off the script, experienced call center representatives think of their script more like guidelines.

Real conversations are critical to developing a personal connection, which can increase the chances your customer will buy from you again.

If you work for an answering service or call center, try offering personal anecdotes when applicable. It will show that you’re human, understand what the caller is going through, and are there to help

Practice E.I. During Phone Conversations with Customers

Practicing emotional intelligence in daily interactions with customers can help companies build brand loyalty and improve their overall satisfaction.

As representatives of the companies, customer service reps, and answering services need to demonstrate empathy, communication skills, stress management, and reasoning in their daily interactions.

To show customers that your company cares about what they need and their time, your representatives should practice reflective listening by repeating what the caller’s objective is.

They can also show that they care about the customers’ time by anticipating requests and streamlining the process, even if that means opening alternative self-service options

While solving the problem, they should then provide context and additional information in order to make sure everyone is on the same page.

From there, customer service reps can show emotional support by being authentic and going off-script when necessary. Asking questions, providing personal anecdotes, and responding with empathetic phrases shows that they’re human too.

As a result, your customers will appreciate speaking with a considerate and helpful representative.

This post is a collaboration with  Hannah Hicklen, an Editorial Associate that supports content and research efforts for Clutch— an Inc 1000 company that provides B2B research, ratings, and reviews.

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5 responses to “5 Ways Your Answering Service Can Practice Emotional Intelligence When Interacting with Customers

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