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Managing customer-to-customer interaction (CCI) – insights from the frontline

Richard Nicholls (Worcester Business School, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)
Marwa Gad Mohsen (Department of Marketing, Babson College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 7 November 2019

Issue publication date: 6 December 2019




The purpose of this study is to explore the capacity of frontline employees (FLEs) to provide insights into customer-to-customer interaction (CCI) and its management in service organisations.


This exploratory study used focus groups and semi-structured in-depth interviews with FLEs to investigate their experiences and reflections in dealing with CCI in a complex service setting in the UK.


FLEs are able to recall CCI encounters, both positive (PCCI) and negative (NCCI), with ease. They are capable of conceptualising and exploring complex nuances surrounding CCI encounters. FLEs can distinguish levels of seriousness of negative CCI and variations in customer sensitivity to CCI. FLEs vary in their comfort in intervening in negative CCI situations. Whilst FLEs draw on skills imparted in an employee-customer interaction context, they would benefit from CCI-specific training. Propositions are advanced for further empirical testing.

Research limitations/implications

The authors studied FLE views on CCI in a customer-centric service organisation in the UK. Future research should further address the FLE perspective on CCI in less service-driven organisations and in other countries. A wide range of themes for further research are proposed.

Practical implications

The insights presented will assist service managers to assess the CCI context of their own organisation and develop strategies and guidelines to support FLEs in detecting, understanding and responding to CCI encounters.

Social implications

The paper highlights and discusses the complexity of intervening in negative CCI encounters in socially inclusive service environments.


Based on FLE-derived perceptions of CCI, the paper contributes conceptually to CCI knowledge by identifying the existence of “concealed CCI”, distinguishing between gradual and sudden CCI intervention contexts and exploring the human resource development consequences of this distinction, with original implications for service management. The study also contributes to extending the scope of research into triadic service interactions.



Nicholls, R. and Gad Mohsen, M. (2019), "Managing customer-to-customer interaction (CCI) – insights from the frontline", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 33 No. 7, pp. 798-814.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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