Posts tagged ‘emotional intelligence’

March 22, 2011

Customer Service Roles: The New Frontier for the Over 60s?

Aged 60+?

Coming to the end of a long and rewarding career and getting ready to potter around the garden and finally read those books you have been meaning to get around to?

Don’t!  New psychological research from the University of California, Berkeley suggests that you might be coming into your element as a potential customer service representative. 

Ok, it’s fair to say that the research doesn’t make any specific job suggestions for you, and there are probably a host of roles which the research might indicate increased success in for the over 60s.  However, what Robert Levenson’s research does suggest is that, as we get older, our emotional intelligence improves and that it reaches its peak as we go through our sixties.

Specifically, our capacity to empathise with others and appreciate their sadness or disappointment is heightened in comparison with younger people.

In addition, older people are better able to see the positive side of a negative situation, even if that situation is palpably grim.

Levenson argues that we become more suited to social and compassionate activities as we age and that the changes in our nervous systems which bring about these emotional intelligence changes are likely to give us an advantage in the workplace in those tasks involving social relationships and caring for others.

It’s probably obvious by now why this might be important news for customer service organisations: feeling and expressing empathy and being able to see positive aspects in all situations are invaluable traits in customer service representatives.  Yet the age profile of front-line customer service representatives in most sectors is way below this 60+ demographic.

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March 16, 2011

Is Staying Calm and Unemotional Exactly the Wrong Thing to do for Customer Service Employees?

Well yes, very probably, implies a new study.

This new paper by two Canadian psychologists reviews the academic literature on emotional intelligence and suggests that the ability to influence others as a result of one’s own displays of emotion is a distinct emotional ability with consequences in the workplace. 

Stephane Cote and Ivona Hideg argue that some people are better than others at showing appropriate emotions which influence the feelings, behaviour and attitudes of those around them.  http://opr.sagepub.com/content/1/1/53.full.pdf+html  

They propose that this ability to influence others through displays of emotions sits alongside other aspects of emotional intelligence that are currently better understood, such as the ability to perceive emotions or the ability to manage emotions.

Much is written about the contribution that emotional intelligence makes to the quality of customer service and academic studies show evidence of a link between various features of emotional intelligence and objectively measured job performance in customer service roles.  For example, research indicates that people who are more emotionally intelligent in terms of understanding and managing emotions, are rated higher in terms of customer service provision by senior managers (1).

However, there has been little attention focused on the role that expression of emotion plays in job performance and the authors contend that not only is it a genuine and measurable ability that is present to differing degrees in different people, but also that it is highly likely to have a direct effect, albeit moderated by other factors, on job performance.

So What Does this Mean for Customer Service Providers?

It means that customers like people who come across as positive about, and genuinely engaged in, the interaction and who seem to reflect appropriately the emotions they are experiencing.  And that because they like them, customers are likely to communicate more clearly, more warmly and more informatively, thereby making the customer service employee’s job easier. 

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February 7, 2011

Is there a kind of person who will always be better at customer service?

It is clear that organisational culture, training and management practices and systems contribute greatly to the quality of an organisation’s customer service. 

Unfortunately however, over time, even the most motivated, resilient and helpful people can lose the will to deliver excellent service if an organisation fails to champion, encourage and reward employees who prioritise customer satisfaction.  

Likewise, no amount of direction, support, incentivisation or motivational speeches will lead to excellent service provision, if the jobs are filled with people who don’t have the natural inclination or the personality to make customers happy.  

People can learn the right way to do things and can be empowered to make decisions that will meet each customer’s needs.  But having an instinctive feeling for what will help, a knack for tuning into the needs and perspectives of all kinds of customer and a drive to keep working out solutions are most likely to be instinctive and enduring traits that can take years to develop, if at all. 

The characteristics that makes one customer service provider outshine another are almost always related to their personality, values and attitudes and it means that some people are naturally better suited to customer service roles. 

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