The customer service smile: a paradigm of goodness, gilded with pearly white teeth, and full trustworthy lips? Or, a passé marketeer’s vision of customer satisfaction and retention, loathed by employees far and wide? Well, according to new research by Dr Perminiene of the University of East London, it’s definitely the latter.

According to Dr Perminiene a forced smile is "surface acting" i.e. "putting on a mask and feel[ing] one thing and then try[ing] to display something else." Worse of all? It’s bad for us, causing stress, cynicism, and dissatisfaction in the work place.

The research goes on to mention a legal precedent in which "fake emotions" caused a more serious, sinister result. In the late 1990’s U.S. food giant Safeway was taken to court after employee’s complained that the "always smile, always make eye-contact" policy led to sexual harassment from male customers. This, is obviously at the more extreme end, in terms of the consequences of fake emotions, but, if we look at the hospitality sector in particular, what exactly are we saying to our teams when we say "always smile"?

Be dishonest to yourself and your guests… Not ideal eh?

So what is the answer? Well, like us at Hop, Dr Perminiene recognises the importance that acting methods and techniques can play in customer service training. Perhaps, more importantly though, she recognises that if your business is about people: employing them and serving them, then you must train your staff not to "always smile" but to always be genuine.

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