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Can Worker Safety Impact Customer Satisfaction?

Jan. 30, 2013
New research from the National Safety Council suggests that workplace safety could influence customer satisfaction. Companies with safe work environments, therefore, may reap the benefits of improved customer experience.

A satisfied customer is a loyal customer, and a company supported by loyal, satisfied customers reaps a multitude of benefits. A recent study of employees at an electric utility company found that workplace safety may influence customer satisfaction, “suggesting that there are likely spillover effects between the safety environment and the service environment.”

The study, which was conducted by the National Safety Council (NSC) and published in the Journal of Safety Research, studied 821 employees at a Midwestern electric utility company’s power delivery and customer care groups to consider how a company’s safety climate and workplace injury statistics might impact customer satisfaction.

The study examined work groups at the utility company that were responsible for customer-related functions including installation and service of distribution lines, meter reading, billing, safety, emergency services and more. Work units that had more employee injuries, researchers revealed, also had customers who were less satisfied with the service they received.

Researchers considered that safe working environments may create other benefits related to quality of the work, which may subsequently impact customer satisfaction.

“In an organization with a positive safety climate, where safety does not take a back seat to productivity, employees are likely to believe they have permission to do things right. Doing things right is a permeating value in a work unit that is likely to reach into several domains of work behavior, some of which influence the quality of work,” the paper stated.

The results show that customer satisfaction and a company’s safety climate and injury rates were “significantly correlated.” The researchers also suggested that the study results help make the business case for safety:

“The results of this research bolster the business case for safety. They demonstrate that workplace safety is not simply an issue of doing the right thing or avoiding costs associated with lost-time injuries and related expenses. There are positive business outcomes to be gained in the form of improved customer satisfaction. The explanatory logic, although not proven conclusively here, is that a better safety environment produces spillover effects into the service environment,” the study stated.

“These findings offer good news for safety professionals because they add to the arsenal of arguments for investing in initiatives to improve safety environments and reduce injuries,” the paper concluded.

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