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Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Customers flee uncivil behaviour

By Lesley Ciarula Taylor | Wed Sep 28 2011

Customers will dump a business and tell their friends to do the same even if they just overhear an employee being rude, two business professors have found.

“There is a moral argument against employees being uncivil,”Georgetown University’s Christine Porath said. “But you stand a much stronger chance of getting that message across to business managers if you can tell them it’s hitting their bottom line.”

The chance of seeing or hearing rudeness seems to be soaring, Porath told the Toronto Star. In 1998, 20 per cent of employees said they were targets of rudeness at least once a week; by 2005, that had jumped to 48 per cent.

Research by Porath and colleague Valerie Folkes at the University of Southern California in 2010 tracked the extent to which customers get angry when they see one employee being rude to another or to another customer.

This research measures the consequences: They want revenge.

“People want to leap to the defence of the person being badly treated,” Porath said.

“From a customer standpoint, it isn’t just about how you’re being treated. The fact is that you don’t like to witness this kind of behaviour.”

A staggering 92 per cent of customers who see rudeness in a store, restaurant or service industry will tell their friends and family, the study published in the Journal of Service Research found.

And most of those people said they would stop shopping at a store or eating at a restaurant as a result.

Restaurants were the most common places to see or hear rude employees, the study found. Gyms were the least likely.

Even customers who overheard an employee being verbally abused in a back room got angry and developed an antipathy toward the business, the study found.

“I don’t think people realize sometimes how they come across,” said Porath. “This runs across industries.

“People claim it’s the worst in academia. Attorneys have a reputation for it. The entertainment industry is just brutal.”

A group of doctors she taught told her “they didn’t realize the residents and nurses and others hated working with them. They were treating residents how they had been treated and they didn’t see anything wrong with it.”

The researchers suggested companies invest in programs to train employees and particularly managers in civility.

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