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This was forwarded by my colleague

Workers bear brunt of customers behaving badly 

Australian researchers say customer misbehaviour is fast becoming the norm, with workers routinely being yelled at or threatened and even spat on. Queensland University of Technology researcher, Dominique Keeffe, is currently studying what motivates consumers to misbehave and has so far uncovered some disturbing workplace violence trends in the health care and financial service industries. Keeffe, who has started interviewing service employees, said physical and verbal abuse was, so far, the most prevalent form of retaliation by a customer. 'This is probably because it is easy for someone to lose their temper and lash out verbally,’ she said.
But Keeffe said there were many examples where a customer's rage had gone beyond an angry rant. She said service employees say they have had keys thrown at them, they have been spat on and they have even had death threats. 'One person was confronted with a customer who thrust a non-functioning gun in the person's face and told he was “lucky this time”,’ she said. 

Help for employers
Keeffe said the study would initially investigate how an organisation and their staff handled this type of behaviour and also look at what type of impact it was having on staff and the company. The health care industry takes in doctors, nurses, emergency departments and allied health care workers, while the financial services industry includes banks, financial planners, mortgage brokers and insurance companies. ‘Both of these industries have high service levels and require staff to have expert knowledge,’ she said.
‘I hope my research will present a clearer understanding of what drives consumer misbehaviour so that organisations can be aware of the potential warning signs and take action to prevent it from happening.’ If you work in the health care or financial services industries and want to take part in the study email Dominique Keeffe d.keeffe@qut.edu.au

Renata Musolino
OHS Information and Website Officer


I find it interesting how easy some people find it to treat their fellow human beings abominably. Most workers have little control over your problems and often no leeway in fixing things for a customer, yet people seem to believe that if they are abusive enough, they'll get their own way. Human beings make mistakes - why do some people try to have someone fired if they make a simple error? Sure, you're inconvenienced - but it won't kill you! Why the hell try and take someone's livelihood away? Gah. It's really not that hard to treat others as you would like to be treated. I'm getting crabby again ... better get back to work.


I could never work in any kind of service industry. The first person who threw something at me would have me pinning them to the ground until the police arrived and I could file charges. Maybe that's part of the problem too - service workers are afraid of losing their jobs if they react or demand the customers show a bit of respect ('the customer is always right!').

I can't imagine treating someone abusively - I wonder how these people treat their kids??
You're absolutely right - many fear losing their jobs if they let fly in return. I used to work in telephone banking - people had the most bizarre ideas about what I could and/or was allowed to do to make them happy. It's definitely the "customer is always right" mentality taken to extremes. We even have the same problem here at my work - people join when they're about to get fired and expect the advocate to drop *everything* to help them this second ... when the advocate already has 8 pending cases - all long-term fee-paying members.

I could never treat another person like that. Thing is, these people would be outraged if they were treated like that in there job - but they think it's okay for them to do it???
Spat on? Wow. Crazy.