Building Relationships: Digital Intelligence Up, Emotional Intelligence Down
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Building Relationships: Digital Intelligence Up, Emotional Intelligence Down

Building Relationships: Digital Intelligence Up, Emotional Intelligence Down

"Investing in technology without investment in your people is a waste of time." -- Roger Simpson

As a result of the digital revolution, many members of the younger generations lack the necessary people skills of previous generations. Yet they are now leading start-ups that have developed quickly into leading companies. This will only accelerate the growing number of relationship-disadvantaged businesses.

In a TED Talk, hospitality entrepreneur Chip Conley addressed this phenomenon: "I believe looking at the modern workplace, the trade agreement of our times is opening up these intergenerational pipelines of wisdom so that we can all learn from each other. Almost 40 percent of us in the U.S. workforce have a boss who is younger than us and that number is growing quickly. Power is cascading to the young like never before because of our increasing reliance on digital intelligence. We are seeing young founders of companies in their early 20s scaling them up to global giants by the time they get to 30. And yet we expect these young digital leaders to somehow miraculously embody the relationship wisdom we older workers have had decades to learn. It's hard to microwave your emotional intelligence."

7 traits for effective interactions

So where to begin? You can start by looking for employees predisposed toward a high level of customer service. Consider, for example, these seven key traits that lead to effective interactions. Each of these should be incorporated into the soft training of your new and existing employees.

  • Compassion and empathy. Compassion is the ability to feel for another living being, which results in a desire to help. Having strong empathy for a customer's situation means seeing and understanding it from their perspective--walking in their shoes.
  • Engagement and warmth. An employee with these traits is obviously happy in what they do and welcoming to the person they are doing it for. They seek eye contact, smile, and immediately put customers at ease by being friendly, cheerful, and caring.
  • A drive to serve. The employee is purposeful about focusing on the experience of the person they are serving above anything else.
  • Ownership. Ownership implies acting with the same care and thoughtfulness as an owner of the company, and doing whatever it takes to ensure that customers leave happy with their experience.
  • Charitable assumption. It's important to act as if no customer has bad intentions. After all, you do not want to punish 98 percent of your customers for what you are afraid the remaining 2 percent might do.
  • Presence. Effective employees cannot work on autopilot. Instead they are always fully in the moment, focused 100 percent on the person they are interacting with.
  • The desire to exceed expectations. Those with a drive to go above and beyond are constantly looking for ways to surprise and delight customers.

The relationship economy

These 3 strategic tips will help your business dominate in today's relationship economy:

  1. Use technology to perform basic tasks or to provide alternative convenience for customers, enabling employees to focus on what is most important: building relationships that result in higher customer loyalty, retention, lifetime value, and job satisfaction.
  2. Build a culture that creates emotional connections with your employees.
  3. Incorporate relationship-building training for new and existing employees.

The future of customer experience

Being able to build true sustainable relationships is the biggest competitive advantage in a world where automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are eliminating millions of jobs and disrupting entire industries, businesses, and careers. In the digital revolution, human interaction, compassion, empathy, and communication skills become a premium advantage.

With the increase in the digitization and automation of customer interactions, your employees must be focusing on building relationships with customers. The most memorable customer experiences are the ones where an emotional connection was made, where both customer and employee felt something.

We are all social creatures and innately need relationships. The businesses that work at knowing their client as a person--with a family, concerns, and dreams--will be the ones who dominate their industries.

This column is taken from John's newest book The Relationship Economy, Building Stronger Customer Connections in the Digital Age.

 John R. DiJulius III, author of The Customer Service Revolution, is president of The DiJulius Group, a customer service consulting firm that works with companies including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Ritz-Carlton, Nestle, PwC, Lexus, and many more. Contact him at 216-839-1430 or

Published: February 21st, 2020

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