To promote service quality and customer satisfaction, most firms use the slogan ‘the customer is always right’. The underlying assumption is that customers are always “rational and functional” in their encounters with employees (Reynolds & Harris, 2003, p. 145). As such, managers instruct the retail staff to address customer complaints, including any product/service changes they desire, to improve business performance.
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Honest feedback from customers can enable a business to improve customer service and provide more value to its clients. This would help the firm grow and become successful in the market. While customer feedback is invaluable, in some cases, unreasonable demands made by customer dissatisfied with his or her customer experience can affect staff performance.
The dark side of clients may manifest as verbal abuses and threats directed at the staff or unreasonable complaints and requests (Harris & Reynolds, 2003). To protect employees from customer deviance, it is important for the business owner to stand with his or her team. This would enhance the employees’ confidence in their work and improve their job satisfaction.
The proposed study will examine the following research question: how does customer deviance influence job satisfaction and employee retention in the service industry?
Harris and Reynolds (2003) identify verbal abuse, disrespect for company policies, and unreasonable requests as the common forms of behavior shown by unruly customers in the hotel industry. Deviant customer behavior has negative impacts on the staff, including psychological, emotional, and behavioral effects.
Interactions with challenging customers lower staff morale and motivation, which in turn reduce job satisfaction and retention (Harris & Reynolds, 2003). Without adequate organizational support, customer aggression can force employees in the sales/marketing team to leave the organization or the sector.
Organizational support is essential in dealing with challenging customers. It is critical that the CEO or manager examines the situation fairly before making a decision regarding the merits of the customer’s complaint or request.
Ben-Zur and Yagil (2005) write that the lack of organizational support results in “employee burnout, emotional exhaustion, and low self-esteem” that may affect productivity and workplace relations (p. 91). Empowering staff enables them to be more assertive and able to control customer behavior.
Managers or business owners often feel obliged to grant customers their desires. However, this approach only enhances deviant behaviors in customers and makes employees powerless and demoralized (Ben-Zur & Yagil, 2005).
As a result, employees may become dissatisfied with their working conditions and have the desire to leave the organization or sector. The study hypothesizes that customer incivility coupled with a lack of organizational support increases turnover intentions in employees working in the service sector.
In research, protecting the participants from any potential harm and preserving the anonymity and confidentiality of information are the key ethical challenges that a researcher must address (Corbetta, 2003). The researcher must also seek an informed consent from the participants.
Since the proposed study will involve staff interviews on customer incivility and organizational support, any sensitive information given will have the potential of damaging an employee’s relationship with his or her employer or supervisor. The researcher will neither reveal the identity of the participants nor their responses to the organization to protect them from reprisals.
Privacy and anonymity will be ensured during the entire research process. Another ethical challenge relates to obtaining informed consent from the participants. The employees may feel under pressure to participate if the invitation comes from their superiors.
In addition, a complex language may prevent junior workers from understanding the contents of an informed consent letter. The researcher will provide the full details of the research in a simple language to participants prior to participation. Additionally, the participants will be allowed to withdraw at any point during the research without risking any penalty.
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Preliminary Thoughts about the Research Design
The study will use a descriptive research design to investigate how customer incivility coupled with the lack of organizational support enhances an employee’s intention to leave the firm. It will draw its subjects from the management and frontline staff working in the banking industry. The frontline employees interact with customers and process customer requests on a daily basis.
Data collection will involve semi-structured interviews conducted at two levels, namely, staff and management levels. Each participant will be interviewed at his or her workstation in a session lasting about 15 minutes.
The researcher will use information seeking questions to explore the participants’ experiences with customer incivility, their views on organizational support, and their turnover intentions. Thematic analysis approach will be used to analyze the qualitative data collected.
The Sampling Approach
The study will use convenience sampling to recruit participants based on accessibility. Given that bank employees are busy during working hours, it will be prudent to use this approach to achieve data saturation. The study will interview 20 front-desk workers (customer care staff) and 5 managers from 3 different commercial banks. It is estimated that a sample size of 25 interviews will generate sufficient data for the research.
To access the respondents, the researcher will contact the bank managers and inform them of the study’s goals and methodology. They will communicate this information to the employees and schedule a day for the interviews. Participation will be voluntary and no incentives will be offered for participating in the study.
Ben-Zur, H., & Yagil, D. (2005). The Relationship between Empowerment, Aggressive Behaviours of Customers, Coping, and Burnout. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 14, 81–99.
Corbetta, P. (2003). Social Research: Theory, Methods, and Techniques. London: Sage Publishers.
Harris, L. C., & Reynolds, K. L. (2003). The Consequences of Dysfunctional Customer Behaviour. Journal of Service Research, 6, 144–161.