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US Customers Draw the Line on Rude Employees


Being polite and respectful to customers should be of critical concern for businesses, as it plays an increasingly vital role in the bottom line, according to new research.

In a survey of adult Americans that was conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research, 69 percent of the respondents said that if a business isn't treating them with respect , they will take their money elsewhere. In addition, nearly 60 percent said they would be sure to spread the word on the rude behavior occurring at a business.

"Americans are turning away from companies they do business with at an alarming rate because of uncivil behavior or discourse," Micho Spring, chairman of Weber Shandwick’s Global Corporate Practice, told BusinessNewsDaily. "Consumers are no longer willing to accept uncivil behavior, and, as they say, they are voting with their pocketbooks more than ever."

The research revealed a notable rise in that kind of consumer response; last year, 56 percent of respondents said they’d sever ties with a business due to incivility.

"The large increase in people saying no to spending their dollars when they encounter rude or uncivil behavior is extraordinary," Spring said.

Further underscoring incivility's power over the wallet, a recent survey by Consumer Reports found that 64 percent have walked out of a store without purchasing something, due to uncivil behavior .

Businesses also are affected by incivility within their own work force, which Spring said may be the root cause of the lack of civility shown to customers. The research found that 43 percent of Americans have experienced acts of incivility at work, with 38 percent believing the workplace is becoming increasingly uncivil and disrespectful.

As a result of that trend, the majority of those surveyed, 67 percent, believe there is a critical need for civility training in the workplace .

"It may be a costly initiative, but uncivil employees can mean lower morale and productivity, greater liability and increased chances that customers will bear the brunt of an unhappy or uncivil representative," Spring said.

Among the research’s findings:

  • 65 percent of Americans say incivility is a major problem.
  • 55 percent of Americans – up from just 39 percent last year – believe incivility will only get worse in this country over the next few years.
  • 78 percent of Americans believe civility training should be offered in America’s schools.

The 2011 online survey was conducted in May among 1,000 American adults to assess attitudes towards civility online, in the work force, in the classroom and in politics.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.