This study aims to examine the relations between service employee blame attributions in response to customer incivility and revenge desires and revenge behavior toward customers, and whether employee empathy moderated these relations.
The authors used survey data based on the critical incident method provided by a sample of 431 customer service employees.
The results suggested that blaming a customer was positively associated with desire for revenge and revenge behaviors against the uncivil customer. In addition, the authors found that blame was less strongly associated with desire for revenge when employees empathized with customers. Finally, the results show that an employee who desired revenge against the uncivil customer and who empathized with the customer was more – not less – likely to engage in revenge.
The authors found that when employees experience mistreatment from customers, it increases the likelihood that they will blame the offending customer and behave in ways that are contrary to their organization’s interests. The results suggest several points of intervention for organizations to more effectively respond to customer mistreatment.
In this study, the authors make one of the first attempts to investigate the relationships between service employee attributions of blame when they experience customer incivility, desire for revenge and customer-directed revenge behaviors. The authors also examined whether empathy moderates the relations between blame attribution, desires for revenge and revenge behavior.