Service with a smile

Service with a smile is more than a catch phrase. Research shows that the higher the wattage of an employee's smile, the happier the customer is with the entire service experience. But that toothsome grin better be genuine, or all bets are off!

New research from Bowling Green State and Penn State universities shows that the bigger the employee's smile, the happier the customer.

Researchers observed 173 encounters between customers and employees in coffee shops, scoring the employee's "smile strength" at various points during the transaction. The researchers then intercepted customers and asked them about their service experience. The findings showed that the bigger the employee's smile, the more likely customers were to view the employee as competent and the transaction as satisfying.

The researchers warned that requiring employees to smile can backfire. Studies have shown that forcing employees to act friendly when they don't feel friendly can result in job burnout and depression. Research also suggests customers can tell the difference and don't appreciate a fake smile when they see one.

The researchers suggested that companies should create an environment that encourages genuine smiles - and hire happy people.