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Customer mistreatment and employee customer-focused voice: the bright and dark sides of felt trust

Yung-Kuei Huang (Department of Leisure Industry and Health Promotion, National Ilan University, Yilan, Taiwan)
Linchi Kwok (The Collins College of Hospitality Management, California State Polytechnic University Pomona, Pomona, California, USA)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 5 August 2021

Issue publication date: 20 October 2021




This study aims to assess a moderated-mediation model to account for the relationship between customer mistreatment and frontline hotel employees’ customer-focused voice, where their organization-based self-esteem (OBSE) served as a mediator and their felt trust (reliance and disclosure) by supervisors served as a moderator.


The data were collected through paper-based questionnaires in a cross-sectional survey, consisting of 319 valid supervisor-employee-paired responses from 33 international tourist hotels in Taiwan. Regression analyses were used for hypothesis testing.


OBSE mediates the negative effect of customer mistreatment on customer-focused voice. Employee felt reliance intensifies the negative impact of customer mistreatment on OBSE, and this interaction effect, in turn, reduces customer-focused voice through OBSE. The employee felt disclosure marginally significantly buffers the effect of customer mistreatment on OBSE.

Practical implications

Given the adverse effect of customer mistreatment on customer-focused voice through OBSE, hotels should strengthen employees’ service mindset and value their suggestions. The double-edged effects of felt trust suggest that managers should form a trusting relationship with their subordinates and reassure them that isolated incidents of customer mistreatment will not jeopardize their reputation.


This study integrated sociometer and self-consistency theories to examine OBSE as a psychological mechanism to explain the mistreatment-voice process. Besides assessing felt trust’s two-dimensional effects, this research is possibly the first attempt to examine felt trust as an enabling force or a threat to OBSE in the context of customer mistreatment.



This research was supported by a grant from the Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology. Reference No. MOST 104–2410-H-032–093.

Disclosures: The authors declared no conflicts of interest with respect to the authorship and/or publication of this article.


Huang, Y.-K. and Kwok, L. (2021), "Customer mistreatment and employee customer-focused voice: the bright and dark sides of felt trust", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 33 No. 10, pp. 3379-3399.



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