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

New psychological study looks at the implications of a bargain-hunting mentality

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.”

Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Colwood tree bylaw causing problems

Arborist says bylaw unreasonable, puts homeowners at risk

Pellets shot at window of B.C. Transit bus

Bus was travelling near Craigflower and Admirals roads Wednesday morning when window was hit

Find out what the future holds for the West Shore

Chamber of commerce hosts annual Vision West Shore in February

Smell of pot plants sparks social media debate

A noticeable smell on Sooke Road has caught the attention of residents

Horgan indicates Highway 14 improvements coming soon

Premier says looming announcement part of much more coming for south coast connector

Victoria’s Our Place in desperate need of clothing donations

Downtown service provider feeling pinch from less frequent community clothing drives

All the colours of the rainbow, in a cloud

Rare phenomenon spotted at Mount Washington

LIVE: Solitary confinement in Canadian prisons unconstitutional: B.C. Supreme Court

Associations argued that solitary confinement was inhuman

1 in 4 B.C. consumers unable to pay bills, debt repayment: poll

Since interest rates first rose in July, poll suggests households across B.C. have had to tighten budget

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting, but business carries on

Chilliwack school board makes statement in support of B.C.-wide gender identity teaching resource

B.C. husband and wife honoured for saving each other’s lives

Couple presented with Vital Link Awards for quick use of CPR

154 remote B.C. communities to get high-speed internet

Government funding to bring subsea fiber optic cable to connect people on the coast

Kelowna West byelection called for Feb. 14

Four candidate race to replace departed former B.C. premier Christy Clark

Winds up to 100 km/h expected for Vancouver Island

“If you are near the water, it is important to be ‘Coastsmart,’ by staying above the high tide.”

Most Read