Customer deviance: A framework, prevention strategies, and opportunities for future research

The phrase the “customer is always right” assumes that customers provide universal benefits for firms. However, in recent years, customer deviance is on the rise and the academic literature has provided little insight into the drivers of deviance, the actual behaviors, and strategies for how managers can better manage a customer base that cannot be classified as universally benign. This article addresses customer deviance ranging from classic examples like shoplifting to engaging in hostile to anti-brand behaviors on social media or even breaking established norms such as trespassing in stores after closing hours. In an effort to spur new research into customer deviance, we propose a customer deviance framework encompassing the triggers, behaviors, and consequences of customer deviance with attention given to differentiating firms, employees, and other customers as the possible targets of deviant behaviors. We outline prevention strategies that comprise social, design, and technological-oriented factors, which in turn can help firms better manage deviant behavior. In doing so, we identify gaps in the literature and close with an actionable agenda for future research that can help firms curtail these negative customer behaviors.

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0