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When the Customer is Wrong: A Review of Research on Aggression and Sexual Harassment in Service Encounters

NCJ Number
Aggression and Violent Behavior: A Review Journal Volume: 13 Issue: 2 Dated: March-April 2008 Pages: 141-152
Dana Yagil
Date Published
April 2008
12 pages
This article reviews research on customer aggression and sexual harassment in service contexts.
The review shows that factors inherent in the service provider-customer relationship provide the basis for customer aggression and sexual harassment. A range of organizational and situational factors largely determine the extent of the problem as well as the service providers’ resources to cope with it. The service role by its very nature places employees in a vulnerable position because of their primary task to satisfy the customer’s wishes. The sense of entitlement affects the way customers choose to react when they are dissatisfied with service. With that said, the service encounter can become a venue in which customers sometimes behave in ways they would not behave ordinarily. Early theory and research on workplace aggression and sexual harassment generally focused on workers as both the sources and target of these behaviors. More recently, however, there has been recognition that such behaviors are also exhibited by customers. This paper reviews research on customer aggression and sexual harassment in service contexts along the following lines: (1) antecedents of customer misbehavior as reflected in organizational perceptions, customer motives, and role-related risk factors; (2) the effect of customer aggression and sexual harassment on service provider well-being, work-related attitudes, and behavior; (3) coping strategies used by service providers in response to customer aggression and sexual harassment; and (4) a comparison between the main characteristics of aggression and sexual harassment by customer and by insiders. Table, references