Back in 1997, three Harvard professors – James Heskett, Earl Sasser and Leonard Schlesinger – published their book the Service Profit Chain. This sought to explain how some service firms outperformed their competitors and proposed a model which they called the service profit chain (SPC). At the heart of this model was the idea that “happy employees lead to happy customers”.
The book was based on several years of research into service firms, and subsequently lead to a whole series of research studies designed to test their model, conducted both by the authors and other academics. These proved to be inconclusive. There are so many variables in the SPC it proved very difficult to measure and collect data on them all. So there were numerous studies which tested parts of the model, often testing the relationship between one variable and another – most frequently the relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. But despite there being a significant amount of anecdotal evidence that this was a positive relationship, these studies were inconclusive too.
So interesting to see this topic still being discussed on the SAP Business Innovation blog, which includes a report on a study of McDonalds employees and customers. One of the interesting features of this is the source of data. The researchers mined the online stories posted by employees (3,327 of them), along with 4,412 customer reviews. Using data mining algorithms they found patterns in these stories and reviews. In short, employees were unhappy with their employer, and customers were unhappy with customer service.