From bad to worse: Negative exchange spirals in employee–customer service interactions

Markus Groth, Alicia Grandey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


Poor employee–customer interactions influence customer satisfaction and employee well-being. In studying these negative exchanges, researchers tend to take either the perspective of the customer (i.e., the problem is service failure) or the employee (i.e., the problem is the difficult customer). We review these two literatures to show that the inputs, processes, and outcomes of these two perspectives are linked in a way that creates a negative exchange spiral. We argue that this is an ‘‘open-loop’’ spiral because the negative service encounter spills over to the experience of subsequent customers and nearby employees. We suggest that future research use an integrated model of the employee–customer negative exchange spiral and dyadic methods to more effectively test and understand these negative exchanges. Finally, we propose how dyadic and contextual characteristics accelerate or break the negative spiral, suggesting research and practical implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-233
Number of pages26
JournalOrganizational Psychology Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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