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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Thum, Ph.D., CCXP

Customer fury, narcissism, and digital vigilantism: 5 studies on the stormy side of CX

Updated: Aug 22, 2023



Most of us would prefer to love our customers, but the feeling isn’t always mutual.


Customers can be unruly. They can hate your brand, openly or privately. They can ignite social media firestorms with a single click on a smartphone. The risk only grows in complexity when employees can get burned out and lose faith in your brand.


Understanding why is a solid step toward getting in front of the problems. Here are five recent peer-reviewed scholarly studies on the stormy side of CX. See if you think they might be worth putting into your reading cue.



Researchers analyzed tens of thousands of social media posts to understand five different types of digital vigilantism. They found that consumers are willing to use their social media power to cast shame by posting evidence (either true, or not true), or they can use it to help a service provider get back on track. Researchers introduce the concept of doxing as a method for digital vigilantes, where people's personal information that is accessible on the internet is used for shaming behavior. (Paywall.)



In this study based in Jordan, researchers found that customers’ levels of narcissism and their social media presence increased their intentions and desire to enact online revenge on a brand after a bad customer experience. A good companion read to another research article I highly recommend on the phenomenon of customer disvalue. (Free.)



Sometimes things go wrong with customers’ experiences. Price unfairness, inconveniences, and snarky customer service reps can do more than cause the customer to feel dissatisfied. Negative experiences can lead to “brand hate,” depending on the customer’s level of personal narcissism. The authors present research findings based on a sample of cellular subscribers in Pakistan and encourage marketers to prepare their teams for these customers. (Free.)



This study found that customers don’t appreciate it when you respond to their online reviews--particularly negative reviews--with a shameless plug for your next sale. To them, it comes across as self-interest, rather than genuine helpfulness. This study found that relationship quality and repurchase intentions decrease when that happens. How should you respond so customers feel valued and ready to buy again? (Free.)



Customers’ incivility can cause frontline employees to burn out and lose faith in your brand. Managers and coworkers who act as an “angel” in support of frontline workers can alleviate the stress of uncivil customers and promote employee retention. On the other hand, acting as an angel to customers rather than to frontline staff, adds pressure to staff. (Paywall.)


What helpful academic resources have you discovered, written, or contributed to recently? Feel free to comment!


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