working towards great client service

IQ? Yes but not enough!

George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Wilson Reagan are among most influential presidents of United States. During their term of office, these men contributed to bringing the United States to the world and made it matter. One of the factors bringing this accomplishment is their ability to deal with a myriad of stakeholders from the White house’ staff to American citizens, international journalists, important people from other countries. In order to possess such an ability, what is their secret?

Cleverness seems to be a logical answer. Yet, surprisingly, Reagan, Washington and Kennedy with the IQ of 105, 118 and 119 respectively are only categorized as high average in IQ scale, which is not high compared to those of other leaders. If it is not IQ, what makes them so great in dealing with people?

In 1995, Goleman, with the introduction of the concept Emotional Quotient (EQ), has provided the clue to the question.

What is EQ?

Emotional Quotient (or Emotional Intelligence) is ‘being intelligent about your emotions’. It involves the ability to recognize, understand and manage your own emotions as well as the emotions of others (Stein 2009).  The key difference between IQ (Intelligent Quotient) and EQ is the ability to learn, make sense of and utilize the understanding of information and the understanding of emotion (Wisegeek 2012). According to Goleman (1998), there are five elements of EQ including self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Why EQ matters?

According to Goleman (1998), EQ is proved to be 3 times more important than IQ. He found out that EQ is a deciding ingredient of excellent performance, making an individual standing from others who share the same intellect level and cognitive skills. Furthermore, test suggested that EQ is also an element making the distinction between different levels of position within a company. In other words, the higher position one owns, the higher EQ he/she possesses. These are tested facts that Goleman got from a number of experiments, which were conducted quite a long time ago and in a different environment compared to what we are now in.

In order to understand the fundamentality of EQ in Vietnam, I had a conversation with Ms. Loan Tran, public relationship senior executive of Integration Vietnam, a communication agency. Tran is a graduate of the University of Social Science and Humanities where she received no official training in the field of communication, particularly PR and Advertising. It is experience that she gained from working for communication agencies such as ABC Communications, Venus Communications, LOWE that brings her to the current position. As a PR senior executive, she has to deal with a number of accounts, work with people from different industries, backgrounds while also collaborating with internal staff. When asked about the importance of EQ in her job, ‘That’s what keep us survive’, she said.


Author and Ms. Loan Tran (right)

 Know who to know what

 ‘Being a PR practitioner means that you have to be the hyphen between your client and the internal staff, and try to help them achieve the win-win situation in which both parties are happy with the decision. Problems come when you have to deal with different clients from different backgrounds, with different perspectives, ideologies, tastes and, as a result different types of requirements and ideas. The clients are persistent on their ideas and so does the creative staff.’ It sounds stressful and challenging but according to Tran, this is a typical and usual situation that PR practitioners face and this is where EQ is needed. About the solution, Tran believed ‘it is essential to give yourself some time to determine who you are, where you are and who you are dealing with so as not to be lost in a mess of relationships’. Being aware of and understand the position and stance of a person and the one he/she is interacting with in a certain relationship can allow determining appropriate communication tactics and interaction models. For example, when dealing with such client as bank, we have to be careful not letting them lead us to interest or sales involving tactics and try to get across the idea that PR is more about reputation. Meanwhile, when coming back to deliver the client’s brief to creative people, we should show respect for their creative efforts and artistic ideas while constantly remind them of the deadline, which they are not so good at managing.


Know who you are dealing with for using appropriate communication tactics (Stein 2009)

A minor gesture can bring a huge difference

In a relationship where parties do not share same backgrounds, values or beliefs, conflict can potentially arise. Being in the middle of different relationships, it is understandable that a PR practitioner may find him/herself stressed and frustrated. ‘There are cases where PR practitioners receive complaints from the clients that the product is not good enough and afterwards listening to critiques from internal staff that the client has no idea about anything. No matter how bad you want to shout to all of them with anger, dissatisfaction and disappointment, keep it inside. A smile at this point can bring more than what you can expect. A smile at the client with a promise to get it fixed will make them feel respected and comprehended. Another supportive smile at the creative team can encourage them to think over and re-work on the product.’ That is how EQ, particularly can also influence and manage other’s emotion.


Bar-on model of Emotional Intelligence (Multi-Health Systems, n.d cited in Stein 2009)

Experience, explore and exert

Playing such an important role in deciding the success of PR practitioners, EQ is worth investing and improving as an essential effort to move on in the career path. According to Tran, experience is the key to improve one’s EQ: ‘The more you experience, the more you can explore about yourself and get to know about others and develop empathy’. Experience can come in the form of critiques so ‘be calm and open to critiques. That’s what makes us mature in the job. You can always learn something with them whether it be improvements in products, skills and responses to coming challenges’, she said.

Tran also added: ‘What so good about PR practitioner is that you are able work with a lot of people from various backgrounds. Dealing with a new account means that you are involved in a new exploration. That’s how a PR practitioner can keep herself refreshed and motivated all the time. Exert yourself in explorations and don’t forget to include EQ in your package. It will keep you survive!’

Wordcount: 1069


Goleman, D 1998, ‘What makes a leader?’, Harvard Business Review, vol. 76, no. 6, pp. 82- 91.

Hugh, M & Terrell, JB 2012, Emotional Intelligence in Action: Training and Coaching activities for leaders, managers and teams, 2nd edn, Pfieffer, San Francissco.

Stein, SJ 2009, Emotional Intelligence for Dummies, 1st edn, Wiley, UK.

Tran, L 2012, interview, 31 August 2012.


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