Difficult Customer? Check Your Emotional (EQ) Bank Account

August 3, 2017  |  Posted by in Exploratory Process, Recommended Reading, Relationship Building

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

The next time you encounter a “difficult” customer who just won’t cut you any slack, take a moment to ponder the balance of your emotional bank account with that individual and with his/her organization. The concept of the “emotional bank account” was introduced by Stephen Covey over 25 years ago in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  7 Habits focuses on the amount of trust or good will that exists in any relationship. “Deposits” build trust and confidence whereas “withdraws” break down and reduce these foundational elements of sales success. It is a dynamic at play in every relationship – both personal and professional.

Nearly three decades later, 7 Habits remains one of the most referenced books of the self-improvement genre because the principles are timeless and as relevant today as ever. These concepts speak to the need for personal integrity and responsibility; to really listen to customers, and to think strategically about the long-term health of our customer relationships over short-term gains. If you have not read it, it would be an excellent investment of your time to do so. Here are some highlights from the book:

Building and repairing relationships takes time and effort. There is no silver bullet, and we can’t expect a 1:1 ratio of deposit to withdraw. In fact, Covey asserts a 5:1 rule – it may take five deposits to make up for one withdraw. That’s why it is so important to build an emotional reserve over time with customers. In doing so, it is important to be aware that, to some degree, individuals have their own “currency” driven by their unique needs and motivations. All the more reason to sharpen those listening skills!

In business, emotional deposits include:

  • Keeping commitments and meeting deadlines
  • Seeking first to understand (Listening, Exploratory Process)
  • Displays of respect
  • Setting clear expectations
  • Taking responsibility and apologizing for mistakes
  • Honesty and candor
  • Forgiveness

To identify emotional withdraws, simply place “NOT” or “NO” in front of each of the elements listed above.

The very concept of building an emotional bank account and maintaining a positive balance reflects the strategic perspective of Covey. Consider the wisdom of building good will, over time, through positive, proactive effort rather than functioning in a mode of constant crisis management and relationship repair. Not only is the latter mode not pleasant, but it won’t cultivate success. Instead, make it a goal to have an emotional surplus with every customer. It’s the best foundation for customer loyalty, productive, long-term relationships and ongoing sales success.


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