Emotional Intelligence and Customer Service

WRITTEN May 28, 2020 Author: Rich Atkins

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the ability to recognize, assess, and positively manage the emotions of yourself and others.

In the world of Customer Service, it is advantageous to have a natural empathy for others, but emotions can be overwhelming. It even more important to develop strong Emotional Intelligence skills. Empathy is feeling the other person’s feelings, or knowing what those feelings are like. EI is understanding and balancing their emotions with yours.

In all areas of Customer Service, self-awareness is vital. Your actions, word choice, and tone impact those you interact with. For example, a customer service provider may grow impatient with people who aren’t quick to understand. That person may lack the self-awareness to realize that s/he grows frustrated when having to repeat.

Emotional Intelligence includes:

  • Self-Awareness – knowing your own feelings.
  • Managing Emotions – despite fear or anger.
  • Empathy – knowing others’ feelings without them telling you.
  • Social Skills – handling your emotions in relationships with others.

When a customer is acting obstinate or rude, keep in mind that there are reasons for that behavior. Especially in these trying times, when we are fighting our own fears (in other words, when we are confronted with fight or flight scenarios), there is no way to know the stressors affecting the person you are dealing with at the moment.

A conversation can go many ways, but it is up to you to control your response, and remember that in the end, every customer just wants to be heard and understood. Control your reaction to their emotions–by focusing on your thoughts. Stay calm, breathe deeply and slowly. Listening, not reacting, is your primary job.

In all situations, there is a way to make it right.

The all-important, and often-overlooked emotional components of customer service is to acknowledge the inconvenience suffered by the victim.

  • “Oh no! That must have been upsetting for you.”
  • “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
  • “We can do better than that for you.”

When you recognize the emotional harm from the inconvenience, you’re saying to the customer, “I get you, emotionally. Your feelings are valid to me.” Statements like these don’t necessarily admit that the business has done anything wrong (but if it did, we should own up to that fact). They simply allow and validate other people’s feelings.

The two sides of Emotional Intelligence are separate but connected. It is virtually impossible to respond successfully to others if we do not have a strong hold on our own emotions. Learning to maintain the balance of emotions will ultimately help you to better serve your customer.


This information is from the Improving Customer Service curriculum. If you’re looking for ways to improve this or other communication skills, register for one of our upcoming public classes.


Check out our upcoming EI/CS Class >>


Other Resources:

How to use Emotional Intelligence to Provide Excellent Customer Service

How to put some Emotional Intelligence into your Customer Service scripts

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