The Benjamin Franklin Effect and the Customer Experience.


A couple of weeks ago my colleague mentioned “Benjamin Franklin Effect” and I was super curious. I mean what other effect can Benjamin Franklin have after been one of the Founding Father’s of the USA, an inventor and the bald man on the 100 dollar bill. As such, I decided to do a little research about this “effect” { thank you Google and Wikipedia} and I was amazed at the information I saw. I knew I had to write about it.

To start with, what is the Benjamin Franklin Effect? According to Wikipedia, it is a proposed psychological phenomenon: A person who has performed a favor for someone is more likely to do another favor for that person than they would be if they had received a favor from that person. An explanation for this would be that we internalize the reason that we helped them was because we liked them. The opposite case is also believed to be true, namely that we come to hate a person whom we did wrong to. We de-humanize them to justify the bad things we did to them.

To me, this implies that our mind justifies our actions. We justify the reason we keep helping a particular person. This level of dominance, feeds our superiority complex thus making us anticipate the next time the person needs help compelling us to render it. Lets review the customer experience part of this article. According to this phenomenon, as a support agent, when you begin to help clients everyday to solve their problems, you are likely to think you like your customers a lot thus making you a happy staff. For example, in my earliest months at the call center, I had a client who called in with a complaint that he wanted a better bargain than what we were offering him. It took me 3 days to get the best deals he wanted and when it was done I never felt more connected to a customer like I felt with him. Subsequently, whenever he called in, he would ask for me and I was very happy when ever that happened. Note that I never spoke to this client about anything besides work but he became one of my favorite clients because I was always able to solve his problems whenever he called in.

Benjamin Franklin whom this effect is named after observed in his autobiography, on how he dealt with the animosity of a rival legislator when he served in the Pennsylvania legislature in the 18th century:

Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favor of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favor. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.

According too Steve Dalton in his article Harness the Ben Franklin Effect, Boost Your Career, the Ben Franklin Effect can be used to build rapport with a desired client, when the traditional approach of offering service or assistance isn’t successful, consider changing gears. Ask your clients for assistance instead. Ask them how you can help them and encourage the client to give suggestions on what you can do to ensure they enjoy the service. This pure favor, left unrepaid, can build likability that will enhance your ability to earn that client’s time and patronage in the future.

It is important for us to also realize that the reverse is also the case with the effect. We justify why we do bad things to people and conclude that the reason we do this is because we do not like them. As such, if you have a client that as had an altercation with a colleague before and you are to render services to the client, you are likely not to offer your best to that client, justifying it with the bad experience your colleagues had.

Here is my conclusion, when we render help to someone, it feeds our ego, boosts our superiority complex and makes you feel really good when you see that person using what you either gave him or referring to you as his savior to others. The effect is also quoted in Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. He suggests that, when we ask a colleague to do us a favor, we are signalling that we consider them to have something we don’t, whether more intelligence, more knowledge, more skills, or whatever. This is another way of showing admiration and respect, something the other person may not have noticed from us before. This immediately raises their opinion of us and makes them more willing to help us again both because they enjoy the admiration and have genuinely started to like us. That feeling is what I call the Super Hero Feeling.

To my fellow Support Agents, ensure you use the Benjamin Franklin Effect so you can give the Super Hero Feeling to someone or feel that way your self because trust me it is not everyday you feel like a Clark Kent.

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