Great deals lead to worse treatment for customer service workers: study

VANCOUVER — As shoppers search for the best post-Christmas deals, a study by the University of British Columbia has found bargain hunters tend to dehumanize customer service staff.

The study published this month in the Journal of Consumer Psychology looked at the implications of a bargain-hunting mentality and found it causes shoppers to be less attuned to the human needs of employees and more likely to report bad service.

“It kind of has this perverse effect of, ‘Oh I’m paying less, hence they’re worth less,’ and the other effect that is, I am so narrowing down on paying the lowest price that I don’t take the time to look around and appreciate what’s going on,” said co-author Johannes Boegershausen, a PhD student at the Sauder school of business.

In one experiment, researchers compared over 2,000 online reviews of airlines Lufthansa and the low-cost carrier Ryanair by looking specifically for more than 100 words that reflect the humanity behind the service, such as friendly, compassionate, kind or helpful.

The humanizing terms were used far less often for Ryanair than the higher-end Lufthansa, even when results were adjusted for differences in quality.

Perceptions of advertising between the two airlines were also tested. Identical ads of a flight attendant branded for both airlines and a neutral non-brand found that people perceived the Ryanair employee in a lesser light.

Boegershausen said it’s believed this is the result of the perceived cost-benefit of the interaction based on market pricing.

The perceptions can also affect how consumers then rate their experience with a customer service agent.

In a test asking consumers to rent a car online that included interacting with a rude employee in a chat room, consumers tasked with finding the best deal were harsher in their review of the chat support.

With car rental or car sharing platforms, such as Uber and Lyft, relying on customer reviews to monitor the quality of their employees, Boegershausen said bargain hunters are 18 per cent more likely to leave a review that triggers a disciplinary meeting for a driver.

“Basically when you shop at price-conscious mentality … you actually perceive the employee as somewhat less human and because of that, when they do something wrong, you punish them more, or you are more likely to punish them,” he said.

The findings are not intended to paint bargain hunters in a bad light, Boegershausen said.

“I think almost every one of us is in that state at some point in their life through, say, a particular sale and it’s not that we’re necessarily particularly bad people, but we can lose sight of what is really important,” he said.

Employers with discount brands should keep in mind that their staff may face greater stress and burnout when facing price-conscious consumers, he said.

Especially during the deal hunting around the holiday season, Boegershausen said.

“It’s a little ironic that Christmas is a celebration of love and that can get lost very quickly,” he said.

“It’s not that much of an extra effort to treat someone with human kindness.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

160 new COVID-19 cases reported in Alberta on Tuesday

Province now has 1,571 active cases

Lack of nurses stressing Red Deer hospital staff, says union

‘We don’t have enough nurses to do the work that’s required’

Reports of horse fever confirmed in central Alberta

Alberta horse owners are on the alert for the spread of a… Continue reading

Alberta’s disaster risk assessment plan in poor shape, says auditor

Disaster costs have greatly expanded since 2003

Student invokes bear to represent Indigenous strength

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools project

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Struggling outdoor equipment retailer MEC opposes efforts to pause sale to Kingswood

Struggling outdoor equipment retailer MEC opposes efforts to pause sale to Kingswood

Survey of employers projects more salary freezes ahead, following big jump in 2020

Survey of employers projects more salary freezes ahead, following big jump in 2020

Canadian Olympian Katerine Savard shines in Cannes-selected ‘Nadia, Butterfly’

Unlike many sports movies, Nadia, Butterfly is not about wins, losses or… Continue reading

Lack of capital for major project investments cited by Indigenous business panel

Lack of capital for major project investments cited by Indigenous business panel

TC Energy inks deal for Indigenous ownership stake in Keystone XL pipeline

TC Energy inks deal for Indigenous ownership stake in Keystone XL pipeline

North American stock markets drift lower on path to first monthly loss since March

North American stock markets drift lower on path to first monthly loss since March

Charity Checkstop returns to Red Deer this weekend

Event goes Oct. 3 from 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.

CP Holiday Train cancelled this year; virtual concert to be held in lieu of event

Canadian Pacific will still donate to local food banks in its network and host a virtual concert.

Most Read