Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sex and Customer Satisfaction

Researchers, David Hekman and his colleagues, at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee have determined the reason that white men continue to earn 25 percent more than equally performing women and minorities. They have found that customers prefer them.

Their experiment was to show a video featuring a black male, a white female, or a white male playing the role of an employee helping a customer. The outcome was that customers reported being 19 percent more satisfied with the employee's performance when they were assisted by a white male. In addition, they were more satisfied with the store's cleanliness and appearance. Their conclusion is that business owners and managers will hire white men when possible and will pay lower salaries to the women and minorities they do hire.

A second study of more than 10,000 medical patients performed by the same researchers showed that patients were more satisfied with their doctor's competence and approachability if the doctor was a white male.

One statistic that the researchers found was that 60 percent of employees have at least some of their pay directly linked to customer satisfaction survey results. As a result of this study, Dr. Bekman offers the following suggestions:
1. Make sure customer satisfaction surveys target specific employee behavior
2. Eliminate anonymous surveys since these can significantly affect the pay scale in many industries.
3. Make sure customers are identifiable and therefore at least somewhat accountable when they provide ratings.

The bottom line is that customer satisfaction does appear to have a component that relates to the sex and color of customer service employees. I believe this is specific to face-to-face interactions. Other research suggests that female customer service reps perform equally well when communicating by phone. However, it is interesting to note this phenomenon. I have not seen any research in this area before and would like to see if these results can be replicated.

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