By better understanding how emotion influences the willingness or ability of customers or employees to participate in service production, we can refine our ability to design operational processes that are both efficiently delivered and poised to improve customer engagement over the long term.
“Mitigating the Negative Effects of Customer Anxiety through Access to Human Contact”
Prior research in social psychology has shown that when people feel anxious, they seek advice from others. However, companies that operate in high-anxiety settings (like financial services, health care, and education) are increasingly deploying self-service technologies (SSTs), through which anxious customers transact without access to human contact. The impact of customer anxiety in self-service is neither well understood, nor consistently factored into service design.
In a field experiment conducted within the context of a credit union’s SST loan-approval process, a reminder of access to a human loan agent increases the customer uptake rate of approved loans by 24%, suggesting that access to human contact in high-anxiety settings might improve service performance. Subsequent controlled laboratory experiments, which explicitly investigate the linkages among anxiety, choice satisfaction, and firm trust during SST encounters show that anxious participants are consistently less satisfied with their choices and report lower levels of trust in the firm. When anxiety is related to the SST encounter, we find that providing the opportunity for access to a human service provider dampens anxiety’s negative effects on choice satisfaction and, by extension, increases firm trust. We also find that granting customers access to a human peer can mitigate anxiety in SST settings where anxiety is endemically high.
Download the paper here: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3328971
INFORMS Behavioral Operations Section 2019 Best Working Paper Award, First Place
POMS College of Behavior in Operations Management 2019 Junior Scholar Paper Competition, Second Place
Washington Post, March 13, 2023, “Vanishing customer support is driving us all insane”
Vox, January 26, 2023, “The death of the customer service hotline”
AARP, September 10, 2021, “Chatbots May Deliver the Best Customer Care”
Insights at Questrom, December 7, 2020, “Who does AI help: Customers or Companies?”
Harvard Business Review Webinar, September 25, 2019. Listen to the replay here
Harvard Business Review Magazine, July-August 2019, “IdeaWatch: How Necessary Is the Human Touch?”