Sarah Ford | June 5, 2014

CSR Encourages Better Customer Service According to New Study

By Carol Patton

That’s how some industry experts describe the results of a study published in the May issue of Journal of Marketingand led by Daniel Korschun, an assistant professor of marketing at the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The study examined how 221 frontline employees at a major financial services company responded to corporate social responsibility activities — such as charitable giving or environmental programs — and CSR’s impact on their job performance.

That study revealed two key findings: that CSR programs help bridge gaps for employees seeking commonalities with their boss or senior management and customers, and then changes the dynamic of those relationships, often boosting employee engagement and customer-service levels.

“[Frontline employees] are charged with acting as a conduit between the company and customers,” says Korschun. “They have this twin alliance they have to reconcile in their jobs — the company on one side, customers on the other side. Their work lives really revolve around how to deal with thistension.”

He says that frontline employees can develop strong bonds with company leaders if they believe those leaders fully support CSR programs as they do. The same holds true with customers. When CSR becomes the topic of conversation, he says, employees typically discover that customers share their values and attitudes. In such scenarios, he says, employees will “move mountains” for customers.

Another benefit is that CSR programs are great icebreakers. Addressing a company’s CSR activities makes it easier for sales people and others to engage customers in informal conversations, he adds.

While these results were somewhat anticipated, Korschun says the survey’s main surprise was that employees who connect with their employer don’t necessarily bond with customers. In fact, they could be at odds with each other.

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