From time to time, companies ask us if we can train their customer service reps on “EI”, or “Emotional Intelligence.” Before jumping into how we respond to that question, let’s first level-set on how we define emotional intelligence. It’s the ability to manage both your own emotions and understand the emotions of the people around you. This is clearly handy in any workplace, but especially in a contact center where reps are constantly dealing with stressed customers, stressed colleagues, and a stressful environment full of call monitoring, queue boards, scripts, and scheduled breaks (to name a few) . . . the list goes on and on (and gives me anxiety just thinking about it!).

According to Daniel Goleman, an American psychologist, there are five key elements to EI: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Think about how challenging it would be to meaningfully train these five components. How do you teach self-regulation to a group of new hires? Or motivation? Or social skills? That feels like a tall order for a training team!

Ergo, my answer is always the same when people ask about our training programs boosting EI. “No, but we have a better solution.”

Don’t try to train for Emotional Intelligence – boost CQ

Control Quotient (CQ) helps reps feel ownership over their day-to-day work and remain in control of themselves in stressful situations. Reps with high CQ are more adaptable, engaged, and resilient to the natural pressures of the job, with lower risk of burning out. Unlike EI, control quotient is – get ready for the pun – very controllable. You don’t even need to try to hire for it; research shows that 94% of reps already have it buried inside of them. This isn’t just your high performers – it’s the typical, average employees who have, at the very least, moderate CQ, which they can exhibit under the right conditions. In other words, it’s something that contact centers should be incorporating to build/strengthen EVERY DAY. 

What do I mean by that? Research has shown that CQ doesn’t vary much by individual, but it DOES vary significantly from one company to the next. Said differently: the ability for that latent CQ gene to blossom is actually driven by the contact center environment, which you as a leader can control. Good news!

So what exactly does that environment look like? When writing our book, The Effortless Experience, we conducted interviews at both high-CQ and low-CQ companies to ask reps what they liked best about their job.

At low-CQ companies, we heard things such as:

I like the hours I get to work and that I don’t have to work on the weekends.

I like helping customers when I’m allowed to.

I get paid pretty well for a customer service rep.

When interviewing reps at HIGH-CQ companies, we heard things such as:

I like that our management team trusts my judgement when it comes to handling customer issues.

I appreciate that my supervisor trusts that I can handle my job on my own.

You are hearing a bit of a refrain here: TRUST. There are several key things that contact center leadership can do to boost CQ, but trusting rep judgement is number one, and it’s something that’s in short supply in most contact center jobs. In fact, the groundwork has been meticulously laid in most organizations to show reps that they’re not trusted – checklist QA programs, dashboards outlining their AHT or calls per day, screen-pop technology telling reps that the customer sounds tense (REALLY? I hadn’t noticed…), and so on.

Of course, we certainly understand that a rebuild of the aforementioned groundwork can sound overwhelming, but this is where we are able to help. We don’t promise a soft-skills training on emotional intelligence; you might as well just light that money on fire. If you want to learn about a better, more scalable approach, join us for a webinar, Control in an Uncontrollable World, on February 15, with Matt Dixon, author of The Effortless Experience

Amy Smith

Amy Smith is a Vice President at Challenger’s Effortless Experience™ team. In her role, Amy implements several tailored product offerings designed to help companies grow in their journeys to becoming low-effort service organizations.