Why Emotional Quotient is the biggest value addition to a brand
When we think of someone with high Emotional Intelligence (EQ), we are most likely to picture a social person with charm and confidence, who is highly responsive and communicative. While these more obvious traits are a good indicator of openness, it is when one is able to go beyond their feelings and reactions to be emphatic, find common ground and create an environment of trust that the real magic happens.
People with high EQ are able to manage the environment that they are in by keeping their feelings in check and approaching the situation rationally by not adding more fuel to the fire. This allows them to view things from a difficult standpoint and work towards a solution in a considered manner.
In a stressful situation, it is often having the social awareness to understand underlying fears or motivations. In the current hostile environment, brands are using emotional intelligence to cater to hidden needs, creating a sense of security or simply bringing joy to their customers who are overwhelmed by the pandemic.
Changing the dynamics of how we treat our “guests”
In Asian cultures especially, the way family units function, the inclusiveness of family meals, sharing of roles and responsibilities, multi-generational dependencies and the safety-net that communities provide, creates an intrinsic joy in being of service and this is what true emotional intelligence is about.
It is in the creation of a feeling of warmth and welcome, where every interaction is an opportunity to do something special for someone else. Asian hospitality brands such as the Peninsula and Singapore Airlines are classic examples of brands leveraging emotional quotient to create value.
If you think about the most memorable service experiences, most often what comes to mind is that feeling that you were treated as important, not the technicality of if and how your problem was solved.
In more complex situations in a service environment, it is creating an environment of trust in which the customer feels safe enough to share the problem with you. This shift from problem solving to one of collaboration is what leads to a shift in the consumer mindset as well to being a part of brand’s process.
The value of human relationships
While digital fatigue has become an unfortunate by-product of the ongoing pandemic, what it has done is make us as consumers respect the value of human relationships. This has proven to be particularly important at a time of crisis when hearing a voice on the other side of the line makes all the difference.
Due to constantly changing regulations in local travel and the uncertainty that ensues, resorts that were able to reassure their guests of safety measures and hygiene practices prior to making their bookings have benefitted from a dramatic increase in the number of direct bookings. When guests call to ask about hygiene standards what they are really asking is “Will my family be safe with you?”
The ability of the customer service agent to reassure a guest and create a genuine level of comfort can translate into good business considering that the hotel would otherwise have to pay up to 30 percent in commissions to an online travel agent (OTA) for indirect bookings.
The hotel not only saves on the cost of customer acquisition but also creates a personal connect with the guest that decommodifies their offering.
Data collected during the pandemic also indicated that guests are less likely to try new places and prefer to return to the same hotels where they felt safe. Given that the source markets for hotels have reduced to cities within driveable distance, the ability to securely return customers is critical.
The increasing importance of time and truth
Time has always been the primary value in a luxury experience and the pandemic has made us ask bigger and deeper questions about how we spend our time and more importantly who we spend it with. Another dimension that is gaining importance in the age of information overload is one of truth.
As the lines between virtual and reality get blurred, consumers are seeking more transparency in the communication from brands, be it in terms of responsible sourcing, sustainable development, ethically produced ingredients or even fair employment practices.
Brands that are able to clearly communicate their values and demonstrate integrity in their marketing messaging are benefiting from greater resonance with the consumer.
Imagine the power of turning buyer’s remorse into buyer’s pride by channelling the feel-good emotions of conscious decision making! Ethical brands are able to tap into the consumers’ journey by making them feel like they are a part of a community of changemakers.
There are several examples of responsible clothing brands that go beyond green-washing to guarantee that their garments were produced following fair-wage practices, transparent in the labelling of the materials used and also offer recycling to complete the circle and reduce waste.
Leveraging data to solidify relationships
In today’s hyper connected world, brands that are able to leverage big data to help them service their customers stand to win in the long-run. It is how the data is used that will solidify the relationship with the consumer and differentiate one service company from another.
The analysis of data gives us as brands the ability to predict, but imagine if that knowledge can be leveraged to connect at a deeper level and be used to not only surprise but also delight.
While personalisation and customisation have been made transactional by allocating a premium to the buying experience, the lasting impact of a positive emotional response is priceless.
In the travel space, we are seeing a shift from point-based loyalty programs that are expensive and tedious to maintain to locally immersive experiences. Millennials are leading this shift to experiences by giving lesser importance to “stuff you can buy” and more towards genuine interactions with the communities they are visiting.
While technology will continue to play a supporting role in optimising transactions, enhancing engagement, ensuring data security and securing payments, it is the use of big data and the adaptation of neurosciences into guest loyalty programs and preference tracking that is to dramatically change the way we travel experience.
Mental health is a key driver to purchase decisions
For many, the pandemic has been a wake-up call for what is important for their mental health and vacations are beginning to be seen as a chance to tackle stress and anxiety by “hitting the reset button”.
The restrictions on movement and limitations on social life have also made people realise what they miss the most, and if google searches are any indication, travel is top-most of the list of things to do when life goes back to normal.
Studies in neuroscience have indicated that the happiness quotient is highest during the period of anticipation of a trip and the feeling of life satisfaction rose 15 days prior to travel. This has been further enhanced by the pandemic where much more time is spent on researching a trip prior to booking. Brands that are therefore able to communicate effectively and connect with consumers during the research process are more likely to create a level of comfort and thus close the sale.
Furthermore, research also indicated that the emotional benefits from a trip lasted one month after returning home. Travel brands that are able to tap into that feel-good feeling in a timely manner are more likely to secure a repeat booking.
Putting EQ to practice
Service industries have always emphasised the importance of Emotional Intelligence and often look for that inherent need to serve as a recruitment criterion. Danny Meyer, the founder of Shake Shack and author of “At your Service”, calls it the golden rule of hospitality – that ability to go beyond yourself and treat everyone in the way they want to be treated, not how you want to be treated, that is, "do unto others as you believe they would want done unto them."
While it is not the easiest thing to do and may not come naturally to all, accepting that each person has different needs and consciously addressing those needs on a one-to-one personal basis is a great start towards developing emotional intelligence.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)