5 Ways to Leverage Emotional Agility to Improve Customer Relations

Adonica Shaw

03 March 2020

In a world dominated by Twitter rants, viral videos and digital clapbacks, the art of emotional agility is rapidly disappearing. Rarely do we take the time to thoughtfully evaluate an issue and respond with strategic professionalism. Our culture of instant validation is decidedly dangerous. When social media users call someone out, the person usually responds instantly. We are robbed of the ability to sit with our anger and process it in a healthy way, which furthermore deprives professionals and companies of the ability to make sound business decisions with all of the information in place.

Unfortunately, as this trend continues, entrepreneurs and businesses are being backed into the corner of public opinion, and have often been forced to make short-sighted decisions that quell the noise of the customer on social media but inevitably have long-term consequences for the business. Think about it: Once customers know they can hop on social media and kick up dirt to get a direct response from the CEO, why would they feel subject to the carefully written policies that have been strategically and thoughtfully implemented to protect both the customer and the company?

So, what can professionals and companies do to give themselves the upper hand? They can leverage agility-driven tactics to create opportunities for the company and dissatisfied customers, employees or bystanders to feel heard while giving those in leadership the chance to address those concerns from a compassionate and grounded position before taking any public position on a given crisis or mishap. To do this, the company needs to have a process in place that considers the core components of emotional agility. This allows them to be prepared if a social media mob rolls up to their profile on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

To that end, I’ve identified five principles every company should consider, lest they find themselves in a public-relations crisis on social media. It should be noted that while these areas are identical to the five key components of personal emotional agility, they should be viewed from a slightly different perspective for the purposes of business.

1. Awareness

Are you aware of how your policies can impact others?

Having an awareness about your policies, why they were implemented in the first place and the ways in which they may fail your customer should be essential training for your customer service team, as well as for the most powerful decision-makers in your organization. It’s impossible to know whether or not you or your business should be moved to an action or respond in a certain way if you don’t understand your resting place. This kind of information used to be held secretly by corporate lawyers and board members, but in 2020, it’s no longer enough to have a handful of individuals with this information. If you make the information more widely available to your employees and empower them to use it in a crisis situation, you can de-escalate issues faster. Forcing the customer to wait for a response will give them time to viralize their issue.

2. Acceptance

Ask yourself, “Are our procedures and policies widely accepted? What does my gut tell me when I recite them out loud?”

Although it is common practice for companies to update their policies with new rules and regulations, CEOs, directors and leaders within the company are prone to ignoring policies that are already in place because they are often outdated. I believe companies should make it a point to pull out the customer or employee complaint log once a quarter to evaluate the quality and frequency of the complaints. Leaders within the organization should discuss the validity of claims and recite the policy out loud to see if there is a disconnect between how the policy was intended and how it might come across when being offered.

Furthermore, when upper management performs these evaluations, they should openly report or admit whatever emotions arise in their gut. Leaders in companies need to show up for whatever emotions come to the surface, and not cut them off during this exercise. Removing the corporate perspective amidst conversation can lead to more compassion-based policies that alleviate customer complaints. If policymakers come from an authentic place—one that considers the person on the other end—mutually beneficial results are readily obtained.

3. Objectivity

Do you and the leaders of your business know if your policies or actions could be triggering to customers?

Factoring in the diversity of your organization, it’s important to understand that when you have more voices at the table, your company stands a better chance of reaching object outcomes, safeguarding itself against unnecessary snafus (like missteps in marketing campaigns) and achieving ideal branding. Yes, I’ll admit it’s probably expensive for a lot of companies to hire consultants to tell them how they are getting it wrong, but the alternative is to leave the company in a vulnerable position because leaders are leveraging a diverse group of innovators when it comes to policy evaluation. The number of voices isn’t key: having the right ones is.

4. Ownership

Does your company take ownership in how the brand is perceived, and are they proud to stand by their actions?

The simplest way to figure out where you stand with this is to ask yourself if you, your boss or a leader in your company would be comfortable defending their actions on the news. If not, you might have an ownership problem. If you aren’t willing to own your policies, why should your customer? Taking ownership means that you are willing to defend the actions and decisions of your brand, even when they are faulty or fall through. A simple way for companies to take ownership is to do a SWOT analysis of their policies and have a strong understanding of their potential weaknesses. At the very least, they won’t be blindsided when someone inevitably complains or vents about their experience.

5. Inspired Action

Can you or your company discern the correct steps to take if you fall short? And if so, are you or the leaders in your organization knowledgeable and grounded enough to take the course of action that preserves the long-term stability of the business?

The final way that companies can leverage the tactics of emotional agility is to maintain a clear understanding of how and why policies keep the company aligned with its brand tenets and values. It’s vital to have a plan in place that allows them to make an inspired judgment call to preserve that alignment.

For example, if you are a small business owner, you should know you need to sell X amount of a product to keep you out of debt each month. Then, your desired outcome is clearly to sell whatever number of products necessary to keep your business in the black. Being in alignment would drive traffic to the products through sales, ads or direct customer contact, so as to increase business activity. In this scenario, inspired action would manifest as whatever action or behavior most likely to ensure sales, retain clients and deliver optimal customer service.


How do you and your business rank in these five areas of emotional agility? Tell us on Twitter using #Leadercast.

Adonica Shaw

Adonica Shaw is a three-time TEDx speaker, author of Depressed to Daring, and marketing professional with years of experience in business development and strategic partnerships. Adonica has been a weather woman, a Division I athlete, a contestant on a dating show and has even run for office. She’s a pilot in training and has survived appendicitis, an appendectomy, a divorce and the loss of her childhood dreams—twice. A self-described adversity expert, Adonica trains women at leadership events about managing depression, stress and anxiety in high-stakes careers, plus the role self-care and self-love ultimately play in sustaining professional success.

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