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Facing rude customers during the day may spur binge shopping in workers

Mistreatment by customers led to damaging thoughts (ruminating about the mistreatment) and behaviours (impulse shopping) in service workers

more lifestyle Updated: Jul 19, 2017 14:09 IST
The study of 94 call-centre workers in China found that mistreatment by customers like yelling, arguing and swearing put the employees in a bad mood after work.
The study of 94 call-centre workers in China found that mistreatment by customers like yelling, arguing and swearing put the employees in a bad mood after work.(Shutterstock)

A new study suggests that service staff who face verbal abuse from customers during their workday are more likely to go on unnecessary shopping sprees in the evening. The study of 94 call-centre workers at a large bank in China found that mistreatment by customers like yelling, arguing and swearing put the employees in a bad mood after work.

This, in turn, led to damaging thoughts (ruminating about the mistreatment) and behaviours (impulse shopping), researchers said. “Stress from customers spills over to spoil people’s experiences outside of work,” said Russell Johnson, associate professor at Michigan State University in the US.

The researchers surveyed employees multiple times per day for 15 consecutive workdays and also tested two interventions, finding a potential solution to the problem. On days when workers thought about a recent incident where they helped customers or about an interaction from the customer’s viewpoint before starting work, it reduced their perceptions of mistreatment, negative mood and led to less rumination and impulse shopping.

Becoming more pro social 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 said.

The study was published in the Academy of Management Journal.

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