The Role of Customer Emotions in a Call Center Setting

Rychalski, Aude N. (2014). The Role of Customer Emotions in a Call Center Setting. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis investigates the role of customer emotions in a call center setting. Three empirical studies are presented: 1. An exploratory qualitative study shows that emotions play an important role in a call center encounter. A measurement scale is developed using the negative emotions reported: frustration, anger, powerlessness, discouragement and stress, and positive emotions: happiness and relief. 2. A survey of 1440 customers of a French call center and subsequent Structural Equation Modeling shows that emotions have a significant effect on satisfaction and loyalty. 3. A follow-up qualitative study indicates that emotions change during the process of a call, and are accompanied by appraisals of reduced certainty and control. Frustration is shown to be a major customer emotional experience due to the set-up of call center services which generate reduced certainty and control, attributions of employee or company responsibility and appraisals of goal-blocking. The main theoretical contributions come from a) the finding that emotions have a stronger effect on loyalty than does satisfaction, b) empirical testing of a widely acknowledged (but not explicitly tested) notion that negative emotions decrease loyalty more than positive emotions increase it. In a call center context callers begin the call with some negative emotional ‘baggage’ which may enhance the effect on loyalty as compared to positive emotions, c) empirical support for Barrett et al. (2007) and Elfenbein (2007) who suggest that an emotional process characterizes emotional experience better than emotions alone. Managerial implications are a) that the call center industry needs to move away from its traditional performance-metrics basis for measuring customer satisfaction and take customer emotions into account, and b) that to ensure loyalty call center managers should focus more strongly on strategies for avoiding negative customer emotional states than for promoting positive emotions.

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