Workers in service industries who experience verbal abuse from customers during the day are more likely to shop unnecessarily at night, a new study suggests.
“…stress from customers spills over to spoil people’s experiences outside of work…”
The study of 94 call-center workers at a large bank in China found that customer mistreatment (e.g., customers who yelled, argued, swore, etc.) put the employees in a bad mood after work. This, in turn, led to damaging thoughts (ruminating about the mistreatment) and behaviors (impulse shopping). Johnson and colleagues surveyed employees multiple times per day for 15 consecutive workdays.
“Thus, stress from customers spills over to spoil people’s experiences outside of work,” says Russell Johnson, an associate professor of management at Michigan State University.
The researchers also tested two interventions and found a potential solution to the problem.
On days when workers who thought about a recent incident where they helped customers (a “recall of prosocial action intervention”) or thought about an interaction from the customer’s viewpoint (a “perspective-taking intervention”) before starting work, it reduced their perceptions of mistreatment, reduced their negative mood and led to less rumination and impulse shopping.
Becoming more prosocial shifts attention away from the self and reduces impulsive and individualistic acts, according to the study.
“These recall and perspective-taking interventions are quick and easy exercises that customer-service employees can do prior to beginning the workday to reduce the stress from rude customers,” Johnson says.
The study appears in the Academy of Management Journal. Additional coauthors are from the University of Florida; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and the University in China.