The straw that breaks the camel's back: service provider vulnerability to customer incivility

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
Uncivil customer behaviour is a concern for service providers and can result in increasing vulnerability for them or their customers. This paper aimed to investigate the interactional link between customer incivility and service provider retaliation and job outcomes. Furthermore, power distance orientation and gender were investigated as potential moderators between customer and retaliation incivilities.

Design/methodology/approach
Five hypotheses were examined empirically through structural equation modelling. Overall, 679 (356 males and 323 females) service providers recruited across three countries, namely Australia (N = 233), Singapore (N = 199) and the Philippines (N = 247), were surveyed online.

Findings
The results indicated that incivility caused work exhaustion, which negatively impacted job satisfaction. Power distance orientation moderated the association between customer and retaliatory incivilities, leading to exhaustion and dissatisfaction with one's job. Importantly, the results also revealed that the female service providers with a higher power distance tend to instigate incivility compared to their male counterparts.

Originality/value
By incorporating both conservation of resource and negative spiral incivility theories, this study provided an integrated and cohesive explanation for both the direct and interaction effects between customer incivility, retaliatory incivility and work outcomes. In addition, the finding that emotional exhaustion promoted job dissatisfaction highlighted the importance of examining the former's role especially among the female service providers with a higher power distance as they may be less able to restrain their retaliatory behaviours during uncivil incidents. Several practical solutions aimed at reducing the vulnerability encountered by the mistreated service providers were proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545-564
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Service Theory and Practice
Volume32
Issue number4
Early online date24 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2022

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