|M.Sc Student||Gabay Hila|
|Subject||The Role of Empathy: How Individual Differences in Empathy|
Moderate the Effect of Encountered Anger on
|Department||Department of Industrial Engineering and Management||Supervisor||Professor Anat Rafaeli|
|Full Thesis text|
Quality of service depends on the performance of employees who staff the organizational frontlines, and is influenced by employees' ability to understand the customer's needs. One presumed prerequisite for understanding customer needs is employee empathy. In particular, employee empathy may appease the backfire caused by customer anger. Although customer-service organizations assume that employees should be empathic to customers, highly empathic employees may be more susceptible to the negative influences of customer anger.
The current study addresses this dilemma by examining the influence of individual empathy on the effects that exposure to angry customers has on employees' performance of customer service tasks. Furthermore, we examined the carry-over effect of anger displayed by customers on employees' performance at a later time. That is, a carry-over effect, caused by handling one set of customers, on employees' subsequent performance, when dealing with non-angry customers.
Data were collected using a simulated computerized customer call center developed for this experiment. Each of the 92 undergraduate students were asked to act as customer-service agents and presented with Voice-Mail messages that they were expected to summarize-document for future organizational use. Participants in the anger condition first listened and completed the documentation task with 10 angry messages and those in the non-anger condition did so with 10 non-angry messages. Angry and non-angry messages were identical in all respects except for their non-verbal intonation. All participants then completed the documentation task with 5 additional non-angry messages that were identical in the angry and non-angry condition.
Findings reveal that the performance of participants in the anger condition was lower than that of participants in the non-anger condition. Participant level of empathy moderated the anger-performance relationship, by facilitating participants' performance in the anger condition while having no influence over performance in the non-anger condition. Moreover, performance on the subsequent messages was better by participants whose previous experience had been with non-angry messages.