Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science

, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 827–847 | Cite as

The influence of service employees and other customers on customer unfriendliness: a social norms perspective

  • Arne K. Albrecht
  • Gianfranco WalshEmail author
  • Simon Brach
  • Dwayne D. Gremler
  • Erica van Herpen
Original Empirical Research


This research investigates the influence that social sources in the service environment exert on customer unfriendliness. Drawing on social norms theory, the authors demonstrate that descriptive norms (i.e., what most people are perceived to be doing in a certain situation), in the form of unfriendliness by service employees and fellow customers, predicts customers’ unfriendliness toward employees. Injunctive norms (i.e., beliefs about which behaviors are approved by important others) and identification with fellow customers exert moderating effects. Specifically, strong injunctive norms can buffer the effect of descriptive norms. Furthermore, fellow customers influence a customer’s unfriendliness only if he or she identifies either very strongly or very weakly with them. By clarifying the role of norms in service encounters, this study provides insights on when unfriendly customer behavior is likely to occur. Managerial implications for companies who want to diminish customer unfriendliness are discussed.


Customer to customer influence Unfriendliness Descriptive norm Identification Injunctive norm Social influence 



The authors thank Kate Daunt and Thorsten Gruber for constructive comments on an earlier version of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arne K. Albrecht
    • 1
  • Gianfranco Walsh
    • 1
    Email author
  • Simon Brach
    • 1
  • Dwayne D. Gremler
    • 2
  • Erica van Herpen
    • 3
  1. 1.Friedrich-Schiller University of JenaJenaGermany
  2. 2.Bowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  3. 3.Wageningen UniversityWageningenNetherlands

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