Learn emotional intelligence for optimal customer service

The Soup Nazi is one of my favourite episodes of the popular sitcom, Seinfeld. Business owners can seriously learn from ‘The Soup Nazi’ to boost their customer service. If you read this post you’ll be able to understand the critical mistakes businesses make and how to take your customer interactions to the next level.

For your educational reference, this is a short clip from The Soup Nazi episode:

I find this clip hilarious. But the not so funny thing is that many businesses still treat their customers very poorly. You’d think by now that most businesses would understand how to talk to people and deliver great customer service. Sadly, many businesses haven’t developed enough emotional intelligence, so they fail miserably.

On the other hand, there are some rare examples of great customer service. One example is my grandpa’s Chinese restaurant.

My grandpa owned three high-end Chinese restaurants called David’s Restaurant. It was highly successful in the 80’s and 90’s. He served John Howard, The Australian Prime Minister at the time, and many popular football stars from the Bronco’s (one of the best football teams in the Australian NRL). My grandpa is now retired but I got to ask him how he created such a successful restaurant. He told me that he was the only Chinese restaurant, at that time, to provide European service. Customer service was the key to success.

Inspired by The Soup Nazi, here are some real pointers to boost your customer service.

customer service seinfelds soup nazi

Revise your ridiculous rules

The Soup Nazi episode points out the amount of unnecessary rules that businesses impose on their customers. The episode not only shows this behaviour at the soup kitchen but also with Elaine’s removalists who are right there with her but refuse to move the armoire into her apartment because it’s Sunday.

There are situations where businesses should be flexible instead of forcing unnecessary rules that make no sense.

My real life example:

I use to regularly eat at this Indian takeaway place near my house, but I began to see a major lack of customer service that eventually put me off. I was observing the Indian takeaway lady talking to a customer one day. She was shouting at the customer with her finger in the air, ‘You can pick one curry! Only one, if you want two curry you have to buy one more!’

I was thinking to myself, ‘why only let someone choose one curry?’ This was takeaway Indian food so everything was premade and just sitting on the hot bench ready to be served. So it’s not like it’s too much trouble to serve multiple curries in the one container, and they serve it in the same size container so it’s not like the customer would be getting anything extra as far as quantity. Not only that, but they’d given me multiple curries in the one container beforehand, so why wouldn’t they give it to another customer? It was a rule for no reason.

Since then this business has shut down.

If you want to boost your customer service I’d recommend reading the book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ and implementing what you learn for your business and employee training.

These ‘rules for no reason’ are usually created to gain a sense of power over customers. Sometimes this sense of power is conscious and sometimes it’s subconsciously driving employees and managers.

And sometimes it’s just the rigidity of the person that has extended itself into stupidity while dealing with customers. The person is so rigid that they can’t deal flexibly with other human beings.

When you are dealing with people, you need to be a little bit flexible and operate in a way that makes sense and allows for necessary customer autonomy – valuing the customer as a free and open person instead of some kind of subject that has to submit to the authority and rule of the business.

A business shouldn’t act like it is some kind of government that rules over everyone who they interact with. A business is not somehow inherently better than a person, but somehow many employees, managers, and owners act like this and treat their customers like they are lower than them. These people are usually unintelligent and don’t understand their place in society, they need to be put back in their place, in service to the person paying.

Obviously, you need rules for safety and to ensure necessary business practices, but it’s the unnecessary and unfair rules and attitudes that make customers ask the question, ‘why do they do that?’

If businesses go down this road they’ll eventually have customers saying, ‘Don’t go there, the people are horrible’.


See customers as real people with emotions

Businesses should be aware of how they make customers feel during their interactions.

This means that businesses need to tap into the emotional aspect of customer service. If their employees are trained or chosen according to how well they can emotionally connect with customers, to make them feel good, then that’s a step in the right direction.

Think back to my example of the Indian takeaway lady. Not only was it a ridiculous rule but it was poorly communicated and didn’t make the customer feel good at all.

Think about how being yelled at with a finger waving in the air makes someone feel. It makes them feel like they are doing something wrong. You don’t want to be made to feel like you are doing something wrong when you are just trying to order food.

It’s not just about the communication, it’s also about how the customer feel’s about the product they receive. Think about wanting to try multiple flavours, you imagine having each flavour in your mouth, and then all of a sudden you are being told you can only try one flavour. Little did the Indian takeaway shop know that such a small thing could be a big letdown for some people, making customers feel like their food isn’t as good as it could be.

It’s the same as George wanting his bread from The Soup Nazi.

Businesses let simple little things destroy their customer service because they don’t take note of how they are making people feel.

All they need to do is think step by step through the customer service process and ask the question, ‘How would the customer feel about that?’

‘How can we meet our business objectives by making the customer feel their absolute best?’

If you can nail the emotional side of customer service then you’ll easily create repeat business. Seeing customers as real people with emotions and feelings will help you succeed.


Never rely solely on the quality of the product (There’s no slacking on customer service)

Relying on the quality of the product alone is lazy and arrogant. While some customers might put up with being treated poorly to have access to a better quality product, there are other customers that would choose an inferior product if the atmosphere of a store made them feel better than your store.

Another reason not to solely rely on the quality of the product is because of the nature of the market cycle. You might have the best quality product at the moment but as markets mature and competition rises, competitors will eventually offer a similar quality product – disarming your competitive advantage.

Just like The Soup Nazi, his soup was damn fine, and that’s why he could get away with treating people horribly for a while. But once Elaine exposed The Soup Nazi’s recipes it drove him out of business.

Businesses should not only focus on quality products but quality service in order to create an atmosphere conducive to customer enjoyment.

So don’t leave your business to the powers of outside forces. Get a hold of your customer service and internal processes as this can often be the difference maker.

Be sure to create rules that make sense and an environment that empowers the consumer to feel good and feel like they are receiving a valuable experience. See your customer service and the atmosphere of your store as an extension of your product.

Question: Have you ever had any Soup Nazi experiences you’d like to share? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


Also, these are some cool Seinfeld books that you might want to check out:
The Seinfeld Scripts: The First and Second Seasons


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.