The pace of change associated with modern businesses (Grewal et al., 2017; Grewal et al., 2020), and the introduction of new technologies has created heightened level of stress (technostress) and aggression (Chen et al., 2019). Adding to these stressors, COVID-19, which has forced businesses to adapt their processes and customer service interface (Ahmed et al., 2021; Jiang and Stylos, 2021; Roggeveen and Sethuraman, 2020). Research now finding that continued lockdowns, social distancing, and political rancour, all adding increased levels of customer aggression (Killgore et al, 2021).
An Australian retail workers union surveyed 1,000 members, finding 80% reporting they had experienced customer abuse in the last 12 months (Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association, 2020). A US survey of nearly 5,000 frontline service workers in 2020, reported 3069 were abused, 1326 were threatened and 196 physically assaulted, more than double the rate of incidents compared to 2019 (Lillis, 2020). A recent British survey found 65% of respondents have seen COVID-related threats toward service staff increase, leading to 1.26 million reported incidents of verbal abuse (Wiggins, 2020).
Despite increasing levels of customer aggression being identified within the services sector, to date, there is no comprehensive tool to measure such behaviour, thus limited evidence exists to support ways in which to mitigate such behaviour.
This proposed research seeks to investigate several interventions. Firstly, ‘job fit’ – does employing the ‘right’ person in a Store Greeter role mitigate aggressive or abusive customer behaviours? Secondly, wearing Body Worn Cameras (BWC) – does the inclusion of BWC reduce or increase aggressive or abusive customer behaviours? Thirdly, do BWC enable frontline service workers to feel safer, or more at risk? Studies on BWC have been undertaken in policing and corrective services. They tend to show mixed results, with several studies indicating a ‘backfiring’ effect, or in some cases, no effect. To date, nobody has examined BWC in a service setting, i.e., retail.
Ahmed, I., Islam, T., Ahmad, S., & Kaleem, A. (2021). A COVID-19 contextual study of customers’ mistreatment and counterproductive work behavior at coffee cafés. British Food Journal. Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-07-2020-0664
Ariel, B., Sutherland, A., Henstock, D., Young, J., Drover, P., Sykes, & Henderson, R. (2018). Paradoxical effects of self-awareness of being observed: Testing the effect of police body-worn cameras on assaults and aggression against officers. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 14(1), 19-47.
Ariel, B., Sutherland, A., Henstock, D., Young, J., Drover, P., Sykes, J., & Henderson, R. (2016). Wearing body cameras increases assaults against officers and does not reduce police use of force: Results from a global multi-site experiment. European Journal of Criminology, 13(6), 744-755.
Ariel, B., Newton, M., McEwan, L., Ashbridge, G. A., Weinborn, C., & Brants, H. S. (2019). Reducing assaults against staff using body-worn cameras (BWCs) in railway stations. Criminal Justice Review, 44(1), 76-93.
Chen, J. V., Tran, A., & Nguyen, T. (2019). Understanding the discontinuance behavior of mobile shoppers as a consequence of technostress: An application of the stress-coping theory. Computers in Human Behavior, 95, 83-93.
Grewal, D., Roggeveen, A. L., & Nordfält, J. (2017). The future of retailing. Journal of Retailing, 93(1), 1-6.
Grewal, D., Noble, S. M., Roggeveen, A. L., & Nordfalt, J. (2020). The future of in-store technology. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 48(1), 96-113.
Jiang, Y., & Stylos, N. (2021). Triggers of consumers’ enhanced digital engagement and the role of digital technologies in transforming the retail ecosystem during COVID-19 pandemic. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 172, 121029.
Killgore, W. D., Cloonan, S. A., Taylor, E. C., Anlap, I., & Dailey, N. S. (2021). Increasing aggression during the CoViD-19 lockdowns. Journal of Affective Disorders Reports, 100163.
Lillis, P. (2020) The impact of coronavirus on the workforce. Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. Accessed 2/11/2021 https://www.usdaw.org.uk/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?guid=575d4419-a739-432b-ab54-10e84ad56e26
Roggeveen, A. L., & Sethuraman, R. (2020). How the COVID-19 pandemic may change the world of retailing. Journal of Retailing, 96(2), 169.
Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association (2020) Abuse shouldn’t be in a day’s work. Accessed 2/11/2021 https://national.sda.com.au/saferstores/
Sydes, M., Dodd, S., & Antrobus, E. (2020). Body cameras behind bars: Exploring correctional officers’ feelings of safety with body-worn cameras. Criminology & Criminal Justice, 1748895820959125.
White, M. D., Gaub, J. E., & Todak, N. (2018). Exploring the potential for body-worn cameras to reduce violence in police–citizen encounters. Policing: a Journal of Policy and Practice, 12(1), 66-76.
Wiggins, R. (2020) ACS Crime Survey 2021. Association of Convenience Stores. Accessed 2/11/2021. https://www.acs.org.uk/sites/default/files/acs_crime_report_2021.pdf
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