As I am sure that you are aware, it is necessary to remember that keeping your customers happy is crucial to the health of your business. Happy customers equal loyal customers, and loyal customers also often generate referral business, helping you grow your customer base at a low cost.

It is also important to note that the consequences of customers receiving ‘bad’ customer service may have a huge negative impact on a business. Our Salesupply ‘Customer service & e-commerce 2018’ white paper (click here for a download) has explored a few of these statistics, and we have found that 66% of customers will change seller if they have a negative customer experience, with 40% of customers avoiding the seller for two years or more. As you can appreciate, these are some compelling reasons to keep your customers happy, as it may impact on profit, your brand and customer loyalty. It is key, therefore, for us to decipher what motivates and pleases customers, to ensure a successful customer service interaction.

As a psychology graduate and full time customer service executive, i have become aware that there appears to be a strong relationship between psychology and customer service, so I decided to do some investigating. Here are the three most interesting psychological theories that I have found, that may have an effect on customer satisfaction and customer service.

1. The Halo Effect

This theory, first coined by psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920, refers to a type of cognitive bias - a mental shortcut - in which our overall impression of a person influences how we feel and think about their character. A good example of this is celebrities. Since we tend to perceive celebrities as attractive, successful, and often likable, we would also be likely to view them in other positive lights such as intelligent, kind, and funny.

In other words, if you can create a positive customer experience with your customer service and first impressions, the Halo Effect will radiate a golden glow of positivity over your entire company. However, if your customer service interaction leaves a negative impression with the customer, the opposite will happen. Which leads onto my next theory.

2. Negative bias

There may be a good explanation for why most people remember exactly where they were, and what they were doing when tragedies happen, such as the JFK assassination or 9/11, however, the same people struggle to remember information such as birthdays and anniversaries. It has been suggested that remembering negative stimuli just comes more naturally.

Research (such as that carried out by Ito et al. 1998) has shown that we may recall negative experiences more easily, and in greater detail, than positive experiences evolutionary purposes. Experts say that negative emotions such as frustration, anger and sadness trigger elevated activity in a part of the brain linked to memories.

This means that, sadly, issue resolution does not appear to be as prominent as you would think. The issues may get resolved for the customer, but the negative impression made by the issue likely wasn’t. It is, therefore, key for us to counter negativity bias, in order to make the customer experiences as positive as possible.

3. The Psychology of Customisation

A study carried out by the University of Texas in 2008 allows us to attribute customers’ preference for personalised experiences to one main factor: desire for control. The personalised experience that customers receive allows them to feel more ‘in control’ as they do not receive the same experience as everyone else, but instead an experience specifically tailored to them. According to Psychology Today, people who feel an internal sense of control tend to be healthier physiologically and more successful.

It can be conveyed, therefore, that simple personalisation tools - i.e. using the customer's name, offering your personal experience or making recommendations - may lead to a more positive overall customer experience, and result in happy loyal customers.

In summary, from looking at the points that I have mentioned, I believe that psychology plays a substantial role in customer satisfaction, and it may also be helpful in the improvement of how we handle our customer service. In my next blog I will explore this matter further, and utilise cognitive and behavioural psychology to help us understand how we can improve the service that we offer our customers.