Organizational Emotional Intelligence Leads to Customer Retention

  • February 18, 2021

It was April 2020 and it felt like the sky was falling due to pandemic uncertainty. None of our clients really knew what to expect as their campuses were shutting down. We did not know exactly how to help our clients since each one of them was trying to figure out how to keep the work going while working remotely.

Typically, at our weekly companywide meeting, we discuss what we have heard from our clients in the prior week and how we can support them more effectively. But during those bleak times, we were not hearing much from our clients, even though our team was putting efforts to get in touch with them. We did not know what to do.
When pandemic and shut-down notices hit, InfoReady’s software platform was already deployed at over 55% of major research institutions throughout the nation and many globally. When the initial shock waves subsided, everyone realized that remote working was here to stay for the long term. We had no clarity about what to expect, and our clients were scrambling to figure out how to run their campuses, continue important research, and continue teaching classes.

For several months there was radio silence. We did not know whether our clients would continue to use, renew, and pay for our platform. During the deafening silence, the thoughts of losing customers and losing business crossed my mind several times. Deep in my heart and gut, I was confident we would get through this if we followed the principles of grit and grace, as described in my earlier blog post - Overcoming Obstacles with Grit and Grace.

As we entered the third month of radio silence, a common theme started emerging among InfoReady team members that ‘we can do what we can control, and we cannot do what we cannot control’. Instead of getting bogged down by the confusion and fear caused by the pandemic, our team members started looking for positive ways to deal with the situation. Everyone on the team decided that it was best for us to focus on educating our clients on how they could make the best use of the investment that they had made in our software.

First, the InfoReady Client Services team decided to step up their game and help users make the most out of InfoReady’s platform. Then the Product team, in collaboration with the Client Services team, arranged a series of customer discovery calls to learn first-hand what we should provide in our platform to make our users’ lives easier while working remotely and what additional integration touchpoints we should provide. The Sales and Marketing teams started shifting their focus from lining up new customers to educating different departments at our existing customers on how they can make the most out of the InfoReady platform that they had already invested in.
Best of all, this was happening naturally and instinctively, without heavy strategy sessions by the leadership team.

By the sixth month of the pandemic, I noticed that all teams had morphed into more empathetic, more proactive, and more confident entities that had a uniquely structured approach toward helping our clients get through this period. I was realizing that we had naturally grown into a more emotionally intelligent organization. By the beginning of the fall semester, our clients had renewed and, in some cases, even upgraded their InfoReady subscriptions. The breakthrough came when many clients started using the InfoReady platform to plan for reopening of their campuses.

At a time when the pandemic was raging, the economy was in a free-fall state, and uncertainty stared us in the face, I was seeing firsthand that we had not only become one of the best “listening teams” but had also achieved a high level of emotional intelligence as a team and as a company. I was realizing that our near 100% client retention had been a direct result of our organization’s emotional intelligence.

This realization prompted me to write this blog since I was beginning to see a direct correlation between our near 100% Client Retention and our organization’s emotional intelligence. I hope that what we experienced is useful to other organizations.

So, what is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is having an awareness of how your emotions drive your decisions and behaviors so you can effectively engage with and influence others. Emotional intelligence can best be described as the ability to monitor one's own and other people's emotions, discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

Five Components of Emotional Intelligence

  1. Self-awareness: When we are self-aware, we know our strengths and weaknesses, as well as how we react to situations and people.
  2. Self-regulation: Emotionally intelligent people can regulate their emotions and keep them in check, as necessary.
  3. Motivation: People with high emotional intelligence tend to be highly motivated as well, which makes them more resilient and optimistic.
  4. Empathy: People with empathy and compassion are better at connecting with other people.
  5. Social Skills: The social skills of emotionally intelligent people show they genuinely care for and respect others and get along well with them.

Emotional Intelligence is an important trait because it gives us the ability to read our instinctive feelings and align those with others. It also allows us to understand and label emotions as well as express and regulate them.

So, what is an organization’s Emotional Intelligence?

When we think of emotional intelligence, we always think of its importance on a personal level. Just like emotional intelligence on the personal level, an organization’s emotional intelligence allows it to respond to market conditions by correctly interpreting customer’s sentiments. However, unlike personal emotional intelligence, which is widely regarded as a very important trait, an organization’s emotional intelligence suffers from a lack of understanding of its importance.
The most critical factor that influences the emotional intelligence of the organization is whether the leadership team clearly defines and embraces a singular organizational mission. The mission has a direct influence on the culture, the work environment, the operations, and drives how the organization manages relationships with internal and external constituents. This clarity of focus and singularity in approach helps the organization achieve higher levels of emotional intelligence.

In InfoReady’s case, our collective and common mission as an organization is simply “Delight Every Customer through Active Listening”. Since this has been one of the founding principles at InfoReady, every department and every team member gravitated to that common mission even as the pandemic crisis started unfolding. They also knew that delighting every customer does not just mean to make them feel good but to manage their expectations through active listening and active dialog focused on solving problems and resulting in desired outcomes.

The emotional intelligence of the organization is not the total sum of the emotional intelligence of its employees, but it is shaped by the employees. When the leaders at each team level embrace the mission and internalize it for their team members, that is when the real growth in emotional intelligence happens at the organizational level.

The following diagram explains how an organization’s emotional intelligence can drive the organization’s overall effectiveness. In our case, we became more effective in reaching near 100% client retention because of how our team members responded. We realized that when team members are empowered to make decisions based on the mission of the organization, managing relationships and handling each unique situation becomes easier. Organizations can achieve extraordinary success and high levels of effectiveness by empowering team members.

  Emotional intelligence structure chart
  We have now realized that as an organization, we are part of a much bigger mission in the Research Community, whether the research is done at colleges and universities, medical institutions, government agencies, or pharmaceutical, biotech, or life sciences organizations.
We are grateful that we are able to play a small part in helping the scientific community nationally and globally through our InfoReady software to fight diseases and make scientific advances for a better tomorrow for everyone.
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