Whether one works as a solo massage practitioner, as a franchise employee or as an independent contractor in a spa, customer service is a large part of a positive massage experience.

New research shows that customer-service interactions are emotional in nature. “[P]ositive emotion from sales staff is contagious to a customer, [and] a satisfied customer also improves the salesperson’s mood,” the investigators noted.

For this study, data from employees’ diary entries, which outlined their daily interactions with customers, recorded 874 positive events over a five-day period, according to a press release from Sage, which published the research. Helping customers solve their problem was most likely to trigger positive emotions.

The data and resulting model revealed that how employees configured event appraisals could be used to predict their emotions:

• Problem solving events where the employee felt the outcome was a result of his/her own intention (self-agency) and personal mastery elicited satisfaction;

• Recognition for service events with the appraisal configuration of self-agency and enhanced ego-identity led to pride;

• Pleasant customer events with the appraisal configuration of other-agency and positive encounter generated happiness and relaxation;

• Deal-making events where the employee felt the outcome was a result of his/her own intention (self-agency) and goal achievement elicited excitement and relief.

Emotions were also shown to be contagious—so as well as a great sales interaction making for a happy customer, it was also demonstrated that customer happiness can rub off on the sales staff serving them, the press release noted.

“For employees in our sample, taking personal responsibility for the customer’s problem and using their skills and abilities allowed them to be more effective problem solvers,” says Sandra Kiffin-Peterson, from the University of Western Australia. “Solving a customer’s problem may be a positive experience because it enhances an employee’s sense of competence and achievement, as well as their self-esteem.”

Organizational experts are increasingly accepting that positive affect has important implications for optimal health and well-being, with implications being shown for how organizations think about customer service and quality, noted the press release.

This research is now available in Human Relations, published by SAGE.

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