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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

Rude Employees Impact Customer Spending

Rude Employees Impact Customer Spending Credit: Dreamstime.com

With so many options for spending their money, new research shows one place people don’t do it is where they — or others — are treated rudely.

In a study conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California and Georgetown University, about a third of consumers reported they're treated rudely by a retail employee an average of once a month, and that episodes of uncivil worker behavior make them less likely to patronize those businesses.

The research also revealed that those customers rarely report such behavior to supervisors, ensuring a relentless cycle of poor employee behavior that leaves consumers angry and frustrated while draining businesses of customer loyalty, return business and profits.

It’s not just being treated rudely themselves that will prompt consumers to take their business elsewhere. The study found that witnessing employee incivility toward others , which includes insensitive, disrespectful or rude behavior, makes customers angry and creates a desire to "get back" at the perpetrator and the firm. Customers also are less likely to repurchase from businesses where they witness incivility, and are less likely to take an interest in a business’ new services, the research showed.

According to the study's authors, even just observing such incivility scalds customer relationships and depletes the bottom line.

Unfortunately for businesses, uncivil outbursts and rude behavior directed at customers and other employees were not uncommon and in some cases witnessed once a month by about one-third of the consumers surveyed.

Just like when they are treated rudely themselves, the study revealed that although customers often report the incident to friends and family members, the majority never reports it to the business itself, leaving supervisors unaware.

According to the researchers, consumers felt the best solution was the establishment of training programs that foster employee civility in order to prevent harmful outbursts.

The study, which surveyed 244 consumers, was published in the latest edition of the Journal of Service Research. The report was conducted by Christine Porath, a Georgetown University assistant professor of management, and Debbie MacInnis and Valerie Folkes, USC professors of business administration and marketing.


Chad  Brooks
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.