Customer abuse of frontline service workers is widespread. Yet despite growing recognition of this problem, we know very little about the role that service companies play in potentially enabling customers’ abusive behaviors. This phenomenon deserves attention because one of the recent trends in service management is giving customers a direct role in managing and evaluating workers’ performance. In this article, the author explores how granting customers direct access to organizational power over workers, what the author develops conceptually as “laundering control through customers,” explains how customer abuse emerges. Drawing on a sample of 486 Uber and Lyft drivers, the author examines how the companies’ use of the “five-star” evaluation system enables customers to engage in a range of different forms of abuse and how workers resist this configuration of control. This study contributes to the customer triangle literature by bringing in evidence from the gig economy and uncovers new implications for the “dark side” of customer service work.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Strategy and Management
- Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
- Management of Technology and Innovation