The goals of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) can be regarded simply as trying to solve behaviour problems, by providing antecedents and/or consequences to shape behaviour in a desired way. If a behaviour is followed by positive consequences, it is more likely to be repeated - this is positive reinforcement. In a future career as a store manager, I might use positive reinforcement to encourage good customer service behaviours in my employees, as good customer service is required in order to retain existing customers, a process far cheaper than obtaining new ones (Barlow & Maul, 2000).
When using reinforcement, it is important to clearly define the target behaviour, and then choose appropriate reinforcers. These reinforcers are more effective if they occur straight after the behaviour, and are certain to happen, thus ensuring a strong link between the behaviour and consequence. Lastly, results must be monitored, to determine whether or not the intervention was successful.
A study of staff in an American grocery store followed these principles in order to improve customer service behaviours in their employees. Rice, Austin and Gravina (2009) carried out a functional assessment in order to develop a relevant intervention. They discovered a lack of antecedents (the staff had not been told how to behave), and a lack of reinforcement (staff were not told when they were behaving correctly). For this reason, their intervention involved task clarification, and used social praise as positive reinforcement, all delivered by the store manager. A follow-up was conducted 48 weeks later.
As figure 1 shows, customer service greetings both when customers entered (greeting) and left (closing) the store increased significantly during the task clarification and social praise phase, and remained high at follow-up for those staff who received the treatment (Rice, Austin, & Gravina, 2009). The manager did not implement the treatment for new members of staff, which could be why their customer service behaviours were not so high. Overall it is clear that the ABA was effective for those staff members who underwent the intervention, and their improved behaviour was maintained over a lengthy follow-up period, making this a viable treatment for managers seeking to improve customer service behaviours in their workers.
Barlow, J., & Maul, D. (2000). Emotional value: Creating strong bonds with your customers. San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler.
Rice, A., Austin, J., & Gravina, N. (2009). Increasing customer service behaviors using manager-delivered task clarification and social praise. Journal of applied behavior analysis, 42, 665-669.