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