New study says it's wrong to expect customer service employees to suppress natural emotions, positive and negative. (Shutterstock)
New study says it’s wrong to expect customer service employees to suppress natural emotions, positive and negative. (Shutterstock)

A new Israeli study on emotions could spur a revolution in customer service satisfaction. Prof. Dana Yagil from the Department of Human Services at the University of Haifa has found that suppressing positive interpersonal emotions is detrimental to employees as well as to customer satisfaction.

Although most customer service agents are told to keep their true feelings hidden, the new research shows that suppressing normal positive emotions comes at a price.

“Suppression of positive interpersonal emotions is contrary to natural behavior in social interactions,” Yagil says.

The study shows that the suppression of positive emotions was negatively related to customer satisfaction, mediated by the sense of employee unfaithfulness. In contrast, the suppression of negative emotions was actually linked to positive customer satisfaction.

Yagil proposes that service organizations find ways to enable their frontline employees to express positive interpersonal emotions in a natural way and in congruence with the social norms for expressing emotions.

“A step of that kind would benefit customers, employees and the organization in which they work,” she says. “People providing services in the capacity of their work with daily interactions with customers sometimes develop feelings for them. The expectation from these employees to suppress natural emotions, positive and negative alike, is a mistake. The expression of natural positive emotions is well received by the other party and is likely to contribute to customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.”

The study was published in the journal Motivation and Emotion.