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happy employees

Research shows that employee satisfaction can have a positive effect on customer satisfaction. But does it work the other way around?

In a paper titled Relationship Between Employee Satisfaction and Customer Satisfaction, Beomjoon Choi of California State University, Sacramento and Hoseong Jeon of Hallym University in South Korea present their findings on the issue.

As the theory goes, happy employees make happy customers. Happy employees tend to have more invested in their company and their job. This investment means these individuals typically provide better customer service.

However, according to Choi and Jeon this positive influence only flows one way.

“Customer satisfaction may be determined depending on interaction with employees and emotional bonding, whereas employee satisfaction seems to be less affected by customer satisfaction. Perhaps employees perceive that customer evaluations are not relevant to their job satisfaction, which is more likely to be determined by factors such as salary, work environment, coworkers, supervisors and benefits.”

Employee satisfaction depends on many factors. Pay, benefits, working conditions, and other perks certainly make up part of that equation. Customers’ experience often has very little bearing on those factors, though. Neither do they frequently affect an employee’s level of responsibility within the company, the type of professional development they have access to, or interpersonal relationships that can affect on-the-job satisfaction.

It’s harder to pin down reasons for employee happiness, but customer satisfaction only effects employee happiness at a very basic level, according to the study.

“According to the concept of partner effects, a person is in some way verbally or nonverbally influenced by the characteristics and behaviors displayed by his or her counterpart [i.e., a customer].”

Choi and Jeon found that employees with positive attitudes can improve their own satisfaction levels as well as those of the customers they interact with. So a person with a positive disposition tends to make a happy employee, which, in turn, produces higher customer satisfaction.

“These findings could be interpreted that satisfied employees with high self-efficacy or cooperative orientation [i.e., highly efficient or helpful personality] might be more inclined to share these emotions with customers.”

Do you know how happy your employees are? If not, try asking them. Giving employees a survey to get a pulse on their attitude toward your company could make serious in-roads toward improving your customer satisfaction through employee satisfaction.

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Former Director of Communications at Plum Voice with 20 years experience writing primarily about technology and customer service, the customer experience, voice of the customer, market research and communications.

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