Keys to Effective Customer Service

by Michael Haberman on September 4, 2012 · 1 comment


It has long been felt that there is a positive relationship between employee engagement or employee satisfaction and sales. (See: The missing link: How customer service drives sales and market share.) Cathy Missildine writes about this frequently in her blog. Now in addition to the metrics that show this relationship there is also scientific support. Here are some keys to effective customer service.

Effective Customer Service is an Emotional Event

Researchers Sandra Kiffin-Peterson, Geoffrey Soutar and Steven Murphy published The problem-solving service worker: Appraisal mechanisms and positive affective experiences during customer interactions in Human Relations of the Sage Journals. Using journals and diaries of sales workers they found ties between the nature of the customer service provided and the positive emotions of both the customer service worker and the customer. Using Affective Events Theory, a model which “… explains the linkages between employees’ internal influences (e.g., cognitions, emotions, mental states) and their reactions to incidents that occur in their work environment that affect their performance, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction”, they recorded data that showed that helping customers to solve their problems triggered positive emotions.

The nature of the help they could provide and how they could provide it had an impact on these emotions. Employees felt better if they felt the outcome with the customer was a result of his/her own intention and personal mastery.  “When employees believed they had the ability and authority to solve complex, and sometimes ambiguous, customer service needs, an initial negative feeling (usually emanating from the customer’s mood, or complexity of the problem), was shown to potentially lead to a positive affective state (i.e. relief, satisfaction and excitement).” * Looking at this data and the metrics from employee engagement studies it is not hard to see that the happier or more positive an employee is, the better the customer service might be. They also found that if employees are positive the customers they deal with are happy as well, even when the interaction was initially negative.

How to structure the job to enhance positive emotions

There are three things you can do to structure your customer service positions to enhance the positive effects, these include:

  • Allowing customer service representatives latitude in making decisions to solve the customer problem;
  • Providing ample and ongoing training to constantly hone problem-solving skills;
  • Recognizing an employee’s problem-solving achievements.

If  you provide this type of freedom to make decisions in solving problems without having to get every iota approved you may see very positive effects in customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and increased sales.

*Quote is from Customer service is an emotional experience, e! Science News.

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