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Problematic customers and turnover intentions of customer service employees

Amit Poddar (J. Whitney College of Business, Georgia College and State University, Milledgeville, Georgia, USA)
Ramana Madupalli (Department of Management and Marketing, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, Illinois, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 5 October 2012




The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of problematic customer behaviors on customer service employee attitudes and subsequent turnover intentions from the organization and also the occupation.


Data from five semi‐structured depth interviews and 215 quantitative surveys using structured questionnaires were used to develop and test the theoretical model. Customer service employees working in different call center companies serving American customers were approached using an established survey panel.


Results using the partial least squares (PLS) methodology showed that problematic customer behaviors drain customer service employees emotionally. Emotional exhaustion is negatively related to job satisfaction, and subsequently, employees' turnover intentions. The results also show that turnover intentions with organization and occupation are positively related to each other.

Research limitations/implications

As regards implications, this study provides an understanding of the relationship between problematic customer behaviors and employees' turnover intentions. Future researchers can utilize the findings from this study for investigating other consequences and antecedents of problematic customer behaviors. A limitation of the study is its use of cross‐sectional data.

Practical implications

This paper provides call center managers with an understanding of the effects of problematic customer behaviors on employee attitudes. It discusses the need for understanding problematic customers and ways to manage the effects of such experiences.


The study investigates an under‐researched phenomenon, i.e. problematic customer behaviors. The study provides evidence of the relationship between problematic customer behaviors and turnover intentions in service employees. This study is also one of very few in marketing to investigate the relationship between organizational and occupational turnover intentions.



Poddar, A. and Madupalli, R. (2012), "Problematic customers and turnover intentions of customer service employees", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 26 No. 7, pp. 551-559.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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