A UBC Sauder School of Business study found the way employees react to rude customers correlated to the way they feel they are treated by their bosses – employees who feel their bosses mistreat them are more likely to exact a form of “revenge” by taking it out on the customer.
After surveying 579 call centre employees across North America and South Korea, researchers confirmed that many of the frontline staff are frequently yelled at or insulted by customers.
“Research shows that customer mistreatment of front-line employees is becoming increasingly common,” said Sauder School Professor Daniel Skarlicki.
No real surprise there – but researchers also tracked employees’ responses and discovered workers are far more likely to be disrespectful in return if they feel their bosses treat them unfairly.
“Supervisors of front-line service workers can be their own worst enemy,” warned Skarlicki. “They think their job is about supervising, scheduling and facilitating but really, they should see treating their employees with respect and dignity as an integral part of their job description; anything south of that will cause trouble.”
Employees who claimed to have unkind bosses admitted to transferring customers to the wrong department and intentionally putting them on hold for extended periods of time.
“Ultimately bad treatment begets bad treatment, and when service quality erodes, it affects the bottom line,” Skarlicki stressed.
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Leaders who interact impolitely with their employees may pose a financial risk to the company, warn researchers, as study shows front line staff project that unpleasant behaviour onto clients and customers.