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.”

Just Posted

Two Rocky Mountain House men face drug charges after traffic stop

Men were pulled over by RCMP on Hwy 11 near Condor on Oct. 11

Canadian annual inflation rate 1.9% last month as lower gas prices weigh on rate

OTTAWA — The annual inflation rate was 1.9 per cent in September… Continue reading

China’s Huawei reports sales gain despite US sanctions

BEIJING — Chinese tech giant Huawei on Wednesday reported a double-digit gain… Continue reading

Alberta introduces legislation to modernize ranch fees, grazing leases

EDMONTON — Alberta is modernizing the rent and fees ranchers and cattle… Continue reading

Pot use admission at U.S. border snagging Canadian boomers, says lawyer

VICTORIA — Canadians wanting to cross the U.S. border are being asked… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Wednesday Red Deer River Naturalists Flower Focus Group Meeting. When: Oct. 16… Continue reading

Opinion: Alberta gets it right when it comes to selling pot

This week marks the first anniversary of Canada’s recreational cannabis legalization. It’s… Continue reading

Don’t be so sure a Conservative vote will bring change

Re: “Dangerous talk from Singh,” David Marsden, Opinion, Oct. 15. It is… Continue reading

Michael Dawe: 50 years later, everyone still gushes over a modern school

Friday, Oct. 4, the new Westpark Middle School officially opened. This very… Continue reading

Davies, Cavallini score as Canada men end 34-year winless run against U.S.

TORONTO — After years of watching from the cheap seats as the… Continue reading

Strong off-season has Canada’s Moore-Towers and Marinaro feeling optimistic

The Canadian figure skating scene underwent a dramatic change last season after… Continue reading

Country singer Dallas Harms, who helped jump-start Ronnie Hawkins’ career, dies at 84

TORONTO — Canadian country singer Dallas Harms, who sparked a number of… Continue reading

Most Read