British Customer Service for Ecommerce is More than just Skin Deep

Posted by Victoria Elizabeth 27 Aug 13

A recent study sponsored by American Express and conducted with international cognitive research organization Neurosense LTD, found that good customer service does more than just make us happier – it has an equal or better physiological and emotional effect than having your favourite sports team win or seeing a double rainbow. The news has been making waves, but what we want to know is, does this happen in online interactions as well? 

double rainbow over treesThe link between pleasure and customer service may seem like a bit of a stretch, but not if you think about how our interactions with others have physical effects on our bodies. Researchers studied 2000 participants in the UK from 17-19th July 2013 to determine what emotional and physiological reactions a good customer service experience would have on average adults (aged 18-60 with 50/50 gender split). The study was done in two parts, with the first focusing on the psychological effects of good service by measuring response times to various words and images, while the second measured things like heart rate, breathing rate and galvanic skin response to determine physical reactions.

What they found was astonishing. It turns out that good service experiences elicit a string of responses in our bodies, from increased heart rate and perspiration, which signify excitement, to lower stress and anxiety levels. Here are some of the stats: 

83% of respondents experienced increased perspiration, indicating a positive physical reaction.

68% saw a drop in breathing rate as their stress and anxiety also went down.

63% experienced a spiked heart rate as they become more excited.


But there’s more. It turns out that experiencing good service triggers the same cerebral responses as feeling loved. Does this mean that flower power is the key to good interactions with customers? Hmm, maybe that's not so strange after all.

One of the big reasons why this is significant for Brits is that they are not used to receiving very good service, so when they do, their reactions are more extreme. This of course works in every company’s favour when they serve UK customers. The study further found that as much as 1/3 of respondents felt thrilled, and another 1/5 felt energised when confronted with a positive experience. These basic emotional responses are the key to instilling a positive image of a brand or company. People may not remember your service rep’s words or even the exact situation, but they will remember the way you made them feel.

Interestingly, a poll by Populus Omnibus used in conjunction with this study found that the top experiences of customer service in the UK happen in situations where online activity is a factor. Second only to a cabbie returning lost property is receiving a gift as a thank you for being a customer. In third place is quick and hassle-free service over the phone. These situations offer some insight into how online companies can improve on their customer service, and how important these activities really are. While giving away free gifts to loyal customers is a good investment, I believe that how a company responds to situations where customers have a problem is more vital. It doesn't matter how many coupons someone has received in the past, if they encounter a particularly stressful problem in their interactions with an online brand or company, that is what they will remember. So making sure that the proper procedures are in place to pacify and satisfy unhappy customers should be a top priority for ecommerce retailers. 

So the next time you are determining your spend on activities like customer service, keep in mind that a customer’s positive experience is more than just skin deep, in fact, it goes straight to the heart.


For more tips on Customer Service Best Practices, see the following post:

Ecommerce Customer Service Lessons from America 


And keep your eyes peeled for my new post on Customer Service Bad Practices coming tomorrow.  

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