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Misbehaving customers: Understanding and managing customer injustice in service organizations

Misbehaving customers

Danielle van Jaarsveld, Simon Restubog, David Walker, Rajiv Amarnani

In this article, we review research on how customers can treat employees unfairly in customer service interactions, and highlight how underestimating the effects of customers on employees can be costly for organizations. The primary purpose of our paper is to highlight research that can help guide managers in supporting the customer service workforce.

First, we consider aspects of job design and organizational policies that can challenge the customer service workforce in trying to deliver high quality customer service.

Second, we examine the negative psychological, and emotional consequences of these difficult interactions for employees.

Third, we consider how cultural differences can shape variation in customer expectations, and potentially affect employee reactions to customer misbehavior.

Fourth, we distinguish between the consequences for employees of negative customer behaviors that can occur in a single interaction with an employee from negative customer behaviors that can accumulate across multiple customer service interactions.

Finally, we offer some evidence based guidance for managers regarding how to help employees cope with customers who treat them unfairly.

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Updated:   18 February 2017 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team