The study found that when an employee in a service setting simply imagines that their customer might write a review, they go above and beyond to enhance their service offering to that customer. 92% of front-line service workers imagine that a customer may write a review about the service that they provide. This perception can be based on what a customer says (e.g. “This product has great reviews on Google”), what the employee sees (e.g. seeing a review page opened up on a customer’s phone) or even what the customer wears (e.g. they are perceived to look like a stereotypical reviewer). This boost in performance of employees occurs because they are incentivised to get a good review as they think it is beneficial for their careers.
Dr Ben Marder, Senior Lecturer in Marketing and lead author of the paper, said: ‘If customers subtly hint they may write a online review, employees serving them will bring their A-game, and the customer will receive an enhanced service.’
Dr Rob Angell, Associate Professor in Marketing at the University of Southampton, and co-author, added: ‘Just thinking about reviews makes employees more determined as it ups the stakes of the encounter.’
Marder continues: ‘We suggest that businesses can use our findings in this paper to create and promote a ‘review-orientation’ policy, which ensures employees know if a customer writes a review it will be read by management and potentially rewarded.’
The team intend to further this research by exploring the potential ‘dark sides’ of these review-based workplace policies, whether that employees begin to feel frustrated or angered by the incentive, or if a customer were to lose subtlety and begin to threaten to leave a bad review if their demands are not met.
This paper is co-authored by Dr Rob Angell (University of Southampton) and Dr Eric Boyd (University of Central Florida).
Read the full paper ‘How and why (imagined) online reviews impact frontline retail encounters’.