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Managing customer misbehavior: challenges and strategies

Lloyd C. Harris (Warwick Business School, Warwick University, Coventry, UK)
Kate Daunt (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 5 July 2013




In this study the authors aim to explore the impact of customer misbehavior on frontline employees and managers and to elucidate the management tactics and strategies that managers employ in an attempt to minimize the impact of customer misbehavior on the workplace.


Following a discussion of the research design and methodology employed, the findings of 88 in-depth interviews are presented.


These data suggest that customer misbehavior impacts on frontline employees, managers, and managerial strategies. Three main effects of customer misbehavior on customer-contact employees are uncovered: physiological, cognitive, and attitudinal. These are connected with four main management challenges: conflicting pressures, recruitment and retention, counseling and motivation, and time expenditure. Finally, data analysis finds evidence of six main ways in which managers attempted to reduce or to alleviate harmful customer misbehavior: selective recruitment, changes to training and induction procedures, enhanced rewards, work-team design, increase counseling, and alterations to the servicescape.

Practical implications

The authors recommend that practitioners undertake a misbehavior audit that explores not only the extent of customer misbehavior but also the mechanisms, systems, and procedures the organization has for identifying, recording, and attempting to minimize the effects of dysfunctional customer behavior.


This study contributes insights into how customer-contact personnel and managers are both affected and cope with customer misbehavior. These insights are helpful for service managers faced with customer misbehavior and academicians interested in how employees respond to contemporary customers.



Received 23 May 2011. Revised 8 December 2011. Accepted 12 January 2012.


C. Harris, L. and Daunt, K. (2013), "Managing customer misbehavior: challenges and strategies", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 281-293.



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