By Alexa Thompson. (Alexa writes for an online psychology resource providing prospective students and professionals with useful information about the study of psychology.)

Employees give what they receive.

Businesses understand what good customer service is but are sometimes disappointed when delivery of a product or service is combined with poor employee attitudes.  Clearly customer service training and expertise is important in delivering a positive customer experience but how does the environment employees work in affect customer service? Is it reasonable to expect employees to provide a great customer experience when their managers are disgruntled or working conditions are tough? Businesses who want more than just a warm body to provide customer service might look at how internal company management affects employee attitudes and end customer outcomes.

One theory proposed by Alexander Kjerulf is, “Happy employees make the customers happy”. Alexander is a lecturer and consultant on happiness at work and author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5. He told Executive Travel magazine. “Studies show very clearly that when employees like their jobs, customers get better service and are more satisfied.” The correlation makes sense when considering that employees are usually seen as the face of the company. A worker who is happy and engaged projects positivity, which customers can usually detect. Someone who is negative, or even just disaffected, can just as easily turn customers away.

According to The Business Research Lab website “The link between employee attitude and customer satisfaction can be seen both in quantitative studies and in everyday life”.  In their article exploring the connection between customer service quality and overall company success, “Think back to the last sour experience you had with a person who was servicing you,” … “At the very least, you probably will not recommend an organization whose employees have mistreated you.” The flip-side is also true. Extraordinary customer service, or even just the age-old “service with a smile,” can lift shoppers’ moods. This can encourage them to spend, as well as come back, usually telling their friends and praising their experiences in social circles.

Actually putting numbers behind the correlation is challenging. A 2011 University of Missouri is one of the most recent large-scale efforts to attempt quantification, and it turned up a number of encouraging findings. The study focused on a European franchise spanning 300 stores, nearly 1,000 employees, and over 20,000 regular customers. Their findings?

Stores that invested in employee happiness saw a marked improvement in repeat customers and reports of brand satisfaction over stores that focused primarily on the bottom line.

“The link between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty is almost twice as strong when you have high employee satisfaction compared to when they are not satisfied with their jobs,” Christopher Groening, one of the study’s authors, told Psych Central.  “This double-positive finding stands in contrast to the idea that a firm can neglect to satisfy their employees as long as they pursue customer satisfaction,” he said.

Satisfying employees can be harder than it looks. Promoting teamwork, establishing a positive atmosphere of open communication, and ensuring that all employees feel valued is part of the calculus. In most cases, though, executives must focus on more than simply the sales staff. Yes, customer service personnel are usually in the best position to influence customer choices—but they, in turn, are often most influenced by corporate culture higher up the ladder. Instilling a spirit of positivity in managers and top leaders is often one of the best ways to boost the well-being of sales staff.  Investing in staff usually translates to an investment in customers, which is almost always worth the cost.


Psychology At Work-Happy Employees Give Better Customer Service — 4 Comments

  1. I love how you draw the connection to employee satisfaction to the quality of customer service. The happiness equation seems like a no-brainer but there are lots of dissatisfied people in customer service roles who would probably be happy to do more than mediocre work. Unfortunately, they also probably feel like cogs in the machine and have no real incentive to do better.

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