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The customer is often wrong: Investigating the influence of customer failures and apologies on frontline service employee well-being

journal contribution
posted on 2023-02-15, 02:54 authored by Nichola RobertsonNichola Robertson, Jeffrey RotmanJeffrey Rotman, L McQuilken, Allison RingerAllison Ringer
A well-established research area is service failure and recovery. Nevertheless, the considerable service failures generated by customers, or customer failures, surprisingly remain relatively underexplored. Specifically, customer failures have a detrimental effect on frontline service employee well-being, which has not been investigated. We advance that a customer apology can alleviate this by customers taking the blame for their failures. We present three studies that investigate this phenomenon. In Study 1, applying the critical incident technique, we develop a taxonomy of customer failures and find evidence of their negative influence on (frontline) service employee well-being, which can be offset by customer apologies and perceived supervisor support. In Studies 2 and 3, using a scenario-based experiment, we triangulate the Study 1 results by testing the relationship between customer apology (Study 2) and its interacting relationship with perceived supervisor support (Study 3) on service employee well-being following a customer failure. While customer apologies have a positive impact on well-being, interestingly, when perceived supervisor support is lacking, this washes out the positive effect of a customer apology and similarly, perceived supervisor support nullifies the negative effect of the customer not apologizing for their failure. Theoretical and managerial implications are discussed.



Psychology and Marketing







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal