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Great customer support boosts our mood and changes our behaviour towards others 🌈

Updated: May 4, 2022

Nowadays, it goes without saying that customer satisfaction (CSat) drives business performance. Having happy customers leads to more brand loyalty and therefore more repeat business etc. etc. 📈

However, we’re focussing on another aspect of CSat that’s less talked about - the fact that great customer support experiences can genuinely make someone’s day. And it’s a powerful thing to be able to do.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will always remember how you made them feel” - Maya Angelou

Helpdesk software provider Zendesk found that 86% of customers, who had a good service experience, reported a notable improvement in their state of mind throughout the day.

Getting into the science 🔬

Research by Lin and colleagues in 2011 investigated the causes and consequences of emotional contagion (the phenomenon of experiencing the same emotion of another person). They used a statistical technique called structural equation modeling to uncover the relationships between multiple factors. Using real-life data, collected from 217 employee-customer pairs in 10 different service industries, results showed that “positive employee affective delivery” (employees displaying positive emotions) positively influenced customer emotion.

A heartwarming story 🐶

LinkedIn member David Nay shared his unforgettable experience with pet retailer Chewy in a viral post.

After sadly losing his beloved Golden Doodle, Reggie (pictured), David reached out to Chewy’s support team to cancel his subscription. The support agent, Richard, was compassionate and empathetic over the phone. But, what happened next was truly unexpected.

The next day, the doorbell rang. David opened the door and found a bouquet of flowers sitting on the front porch from Richard.

"The amount of gratitude I felt from this experience had me in tears and I'll never forget it. I can't thank you enough for the way you made me feel during a very sad time"

6 months on, after grieving the loss of Reggie, David and his family have found adorable Cavapoos, Moses and Mabel.

“We shop at Chewy for everything.”

It’s a lovely example of how impactful great Customer Support experiences can be. (Here's the full post, if you want to check it out)

And it’s not just customers’ moods that are affected

92% of employees who are unhappy in their jobs report unhappy customers as a stress factor (Zendesk).

A study by Wang and colleagues (2013) surveyed 149 call-center employees. They found that negative service encounters with customers led to:

  • employee rumination at night 💭

  • a poorer night’s sleep 🛌

  • and a more negative mood the following day 📉

It’s a chain reaction

If you’re starting work in a negative mood, the chances are you’ll try to hide it. This process is called emotional labour. In excess, emotional labour has been shown to lead to emotional exhaustion.

Another study (Zhan, 2016) found that employees experiencing emotional exhaustion were more likely to receive negative treatment from customers, which, in turn, increased both employees’ and customers’ negative mood 😣

So, it’s all a big cycle 🔄

Employees have the power to change customers’ mood, customer interactions influence employees’ state of mind, and both affect each other.

Beyond mood - great support experiences increase customers’ pro-social behaviour 🌈

Researchers, Yi and Gong (2008), surveyed 23 employees and 590 customers to investigate employee citizenship behaviour (a term in Organisational Psychology, meaning voluntary behaviour outside of the job role that promotes the company - AKA going above and beyond).

As you’d expect, they found that higher employee citizenship behaviour led to higher customer satisfaction. Interestingly though, employee citizenship behaviour also led to higher customer pro-social behaviour - like allowing other customers ahead of them in queues, helping fellow customers find things in stores, and offering advice on products 🛒

So, it turns out that great support experiences can, not only, improve customers’ state of mind, but also affect how they interact with other people throughout their day.

Negative experiences can have adverse effects

With each positive implication, of course, comes a negative one; if great support experiences can make someone’s day, then a terrible one can have an equally (if not more) powerful impact in the other direction.

Back in 1996, Cohen and Nisbit ran, what they called, “insult studies” 🤬

They explored the impact of negative encounters (insults) on people’s subsequent behaviour. Participants were told to walk down a corridor, drop off a form, and return. Half of the participants encountered a man, who bumped into them and called them an insulting name. The other half didn’t encounter the man (and didn’t get insulted). On the way back, all participants encountered a confederate, who walked towards them without giving way. Researchers measured the distance that participants moved aside for the confederate, where less distance represented more aggression.

Results showed that insulted participants left less of a gap, therefore displaying more aggression as a result of their negative, insult experience prior to the encounter.

It’s important to be kind

Whilst the above study demonstrates undesirable knock-on effects from negative encounters, a key takeaway from all the research is acknowledging just how much impact exchanges can have on subsequent mood and behaviour.

In an industry that’s dominated by customer interactions, working in Customer Support is a powerful thing

It gives us the opportunity to make someone’s day, which could mean that they make someone else's. In a world where everyone is so strongly influenced by the behaviours of others, it’s important to be kind 🤗

References 📚

Here's a list of the studies and articles we've talked about:

  1. Cohen, D., Nisbett, R. E., Bowdle, B. F., & Schwarz, N. (1996). Insult, aggression, and the southern culture of honor: An “experimental ethnography.". Journal of personality and social psychology.

  2. Lin, J. S. C., & Lin, C. Y. (2011). What makes service employees and customers smile: Antecedents and consequences of the employees' affective delivery in the service encounter. Journal of Service Management.

  3. Wang, M., Liu, S., Liao, H., Gong, Y., Kammeyer-Mueller, J., & Shi, J. (2013). Can’t get it out of my mind: Employee rumination after customer mistreatment and negative mood in the next morning. Journal of Applied Psychology.

  4. Yi, Y., & Gong, T. (2008). If employees “go the extra mile,” do customers reciprocate with similar behavior?. Psychology & Marketing.

  5. Zendesk blog. Customer Service Statistics:

  6. Zhan, Y., Wang, M., & Shi, J. (2016). Interpersonal process of emotional labor: The role of negative and positive customer treatment. Personnel Psychology.

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