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On the Effects of Customer Anger

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  • UserProf. Anat Rafaeli, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology
  • ClockThursday 26 February 2009, 12:00-14:00
  • HouseJudge Business School.

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In a series of studies I have examined the effects of encountering anger expressed by customers on customer-service employees. The effects include slower and less accurate immediate work performance, poorer performance on various subsequent tasks, as well as (perhaps expected) effects on employee negative feelings and fatigue. Even when the anger of the customer is relatively inane, the studies show detrimental effects, and even if the employee is not directly responsible for the service, there are significant effects of customer anger. Minimal encounters with customer anger seem to evoke some form of automatic response that limits the mental resources available to employees for other tasks. When customers are relatively more important to the target individuals, such as VIP or Business Class customers, their anger is particularly costly and damaging to employees, even if the rewards for complying with the customer requests can be significantly greater. The studies also show a cumulative effect of customer anger, over employee fatigue and employee ability to handle service requests. Interestingly, however, there are cases when customer anger can create positive effects: this is when one or a few customers are angry person in the context of generally calm, polite or non-angry customers. So customer anger can be viewed as a form of stimulation, as long as there is not too much of it. When there is a lot of it, which is what employees report tends to happen, the effects are highly detrimental.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Service Alliance Forum series.

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