Emotional intelligence: the customer service super star.

In any role where you communicate with others, emotional intelligence is the name of the game. When everybody has a cell phone, and we can interact with people at any time of the day, it’s harder than ever to stand out from the crowd and make an impression where it counts. This is particularly the case over the phone. Emotional intelligence allows you to take what could be a generic, forgettable conversation and turns it into something memorable and compelling.

Emotional intelligence is defined by the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions; and it’s the key to standing out.


Because emotions are contagious. How you interact with others—whether they’re a client, a customer, or co-worker—determines how that person will feel about you, and the company you represent.

When you yawn, I yawn, and when you’re enthusiastic, I’m enthusiastic! It’s shown that, in conversations, we often mirror each other’s tones and postures. In a situation where you can’t see someone’s posture, your tone becomes even more influential. Your emotions bleed into a conversation and set the tone, and it’s up to you to decide what that tone is. In Daniel Golman’s book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, he lists five categories of emotional intelligence that can impact the success of any interaction.


When you’re working in customer service, self-awareness is critical. This skill translates into an awareness of how your actions (i.e. speech patterns, word choice, tone, etc.) impact those around you.

If your tone and word choice are courteous, customers are much more likely to accept a gentle “no.” This awareness gives you the power to defuse what could be a tough conversation into something more productive and pleasant.


Those skilled in self-regulation can listen to a complaint and react without lashing out or making a  rushed, emotional decision. Self-regulation allows you to stay calm, hold yourself accountable, and adapt to new situations.

When a caller is being indignant or rude, remember there could be a dozen reasons for their behavior. Perhaps their car broke down, or they have a sick family member in the hospital. A phone conversation can take on many different paths, but in the end, every caller just wants to be heard and understood. As a receptionist, or in any customer-oriented role, listening is your primary job.


Motivation requires clear goals, a positive attitude, and high standards for quality. This category of emotional intelligence requires:

  • You know why you’re doing your job (e.g. having the conversation, solving the problem, etc.)
  • You’re committed to doing that job
  • You’re willing to take the initiative

It’s your responsibility to turn “what do you need” into “how can I help you.” Excellence in customer service requires a dedication to providing the customers with what they need.


The ability to empathize with how other people think or feel is one of the most recognized requirements for delivering excellent customer experiences. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It requires being service-oriented, the ability to put yourself in someone else’s position and the capacity to genuinely respond to feelings.

Empathy facilitates trust, and it’s one of the surest paths to connecting with customers. Phrases like “I can see how this would be frustrating, let me see how I can helpcan turn a conversation around. You want to tell your callers “I sympathize with your plight. I understand your frustrations. I want to help.”

People Skills

Social skills, or people skills, is a broad term that essentially boils down to your ability to take that self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, and empathy, and use it to drive your interactions with other. People skills include your ability to communicate clearly, resolve conflicts, build bonds, and collaborate.

When you use the above skills, you’re more easily able to WOW even the most demanding customers. The good new is, emotional intelligence can be practiced and improved!

Next time you’re on the phone:

  • Observe your own reactions—How do you respond to people? Do you rush to conclusions? Are you really listening?
  • Try to imagine yourself in their place—How would you feel? Can you sympathize?
  • Examine how your action effect the people around you—Do they leave the conversation feeling better about the situation?

Regular self-reflection will help you to boost your emotional intelligence, increase your confidence, and improve the impression that you leave on others!