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Many customer service workers turn to ‘retail therapy’ to cope with rude callers: study

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Photo: diego_cervo/iStockphoto

East Lansing, MI – Do you find shopping therapeutic after a tense day at work? It may be rooted to your occupation. Service workers who are verbally abused by customers are more likely to indulge in stress-related shopping sprees, according to a recent study from Michigan State University.

Researchers analyzed 94 call center workers at a Chinese bank multiple times a day for 15 successive workdays. They found that workers’ moods soured from unpleasant interactions with customers who yelled at or argued with them. This often triggered damaging thoughts and behaviors from workers, including binge or impulse shopping.

“Thus, stress from customers spills over to spoil people’s experiences outside of work,” Russell Johnson, study lead author and MSU associate professor of management, said in a July 18 press release.

Researchers suggested that, as a pre-shift coping mechanism, workers think about a situation in which they provided customer assistance or approaching an interaction from the customer’s point of view.

“These recall and perspective-taking interventions are quick and easy exercises that customer-service employees can do prior to beginning the workday to reduce the stress from rude customers,” Johnson said in the release.

The study was published online June 30 in the Academy of Management Journal.

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