Emotional Intelligence Part 3: When Agent and Customer Emotions Collide

A recent Economist article predicts that call centers will soon replace their human agents with robotic software. We already see software handling software handle basic customer service questions and requests directly. That leaves the more difficult questions and requests for human call center agents. These are real people, who have good days and bad days, who wake up feeling happy some days and sad or angry on others. This makes them the same as your customers. Both your agents and customers have emotions and call centers should acknowledge and adjust accordingly.

Any conversation involves people with potentially conflicting emotions. Sometimes the emotional states of both the agent and the caller result in a wonderful call experience. The question is, how does your call center react when emotional conflict harms call quality, where the call is anything but harmonious?

The emotions exhibited by customers at the start of a call are beyond your agents’ control. However, good agents can modify how they handle a call to better suit a client’s emotional state. Your best agents, those who demonstrate an intuitive understanding of emotional intelligence, will not only recognize customers’ emotional states, they will also acknowledge and allow for their own emotional states.

The comparative emotional states of an agent and a customer have a huge impact on the quality of a call. If the parties’ emotional states clash, a call can quickly escalate and even become disastrous. The results of a phone call can be completely unpredictable, simply because of the emotional states of the participants.

Suppose the customer is having a bad day. Unless your agent engages the customer appropriately and solves the problem that he is currently facing, it is unlikely that the customer will react with enthusiasm to an attempt to sell him something new. The call is likely to be short and unsuccessful unless your agent is skilled enough to be able to quickly turn the conversation around to the customer’s benefit.

Your best, well-trained agents will know how to cope, however. A good agent knows just the right thing to say in order to calm the customer down and improve his or her mood.

A more potentially difficult situation, though, is where your agent is having a bad day. Everybody has bad days – that is unavoidable. However, your best agents will recognize their emotions, and ensure that they do not take their bad days out on the customers.

Agents’ emotions are shaped by their life experiences. You cannot stereotype how any particular person is likely to handle their emotions. While people theoretically learn with time and age, you may well find that emotions differ greatly on any particular day.

This is where Rank Miner’s predictive analytics products come to the fore. The people involved in a call may be emotional human beings, but the data generated is clear and solid. Rank Miner’s Agent Insight can establish trends with particular agents and can identify that Agent Z consistently struggles to engage in a manner that is consistent with your company’s culture whereas Agent Y exemplifies your customer service culture, keeping all types of customers calm and happy.

Where will this lead in the future? As technology improves, we see a movement towards real-time self-improvment of the agents. Your best agents can already judge these emotions simply from what the customers say and how they say it, but in the future even your less emotionally intelligent agents will have the data at their fingertips. It will be up to them to ensure they adjust their manner accordingly – and if they let their negative emotions lead their calls, at least the software will warn you, and you can intervene as needed.