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Civility in America: Customer Service Impacts Consumer Spending

Civility in America: Customer Service Impacts Consumer Spending

Incivility in business can threaten consumer spending and damage a company’s reputation and impact its customer base.

According to new research conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, six in 10 Americans (61 percent) either have decided not to buy from a company again because they were treated uncivilly by the business (54 percent), and/or they advised others not to buy products or services from the company because they had a rude or uncivil experience (43 percent).

Large U.S. companies fair much worse than small businesses and worse than foreign companies, but not by much, according to the research. Large American businesses are considered uncivil by 53 percent of Americans, a rate that is more than twice that of small businesses, which are considered far more civil than uncivil. While foreign companies are not considered as uncivil as large American companies, Americans also don’t perceive them as being any more civil.

Those consumers most likely to vote with their wallets after experiencing incivility at the hands of a company or its representatives include consumers under 50, parents of kids under 18 and those with higher household incomes. This segment is often considered many marketers’ demographic “sweet spot,” especially during holiday gift-giving season.

Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate partner annually with KRC Research to conduct “Civility in America: A Nationwide Survey” to gauge the American public’s attitudes toward civility in society and their experiences dealing with incivility. The fourth installment in the series found that an alarming 70 percent of Americans believe incivility has reached crisis proportions and that Americans experience incivility an average of 2.4 times per day. The latest follow-up, “Civility in America: The Corporate Reputation Edition,” explores the perceptions of civility in business and the impact of incivility on consumer purchasing. 

Incivility, whether it exists between a company and its customers or between fellow customers, is part of the shopping experience. Civility in America shows that half of Americans (52 percent) have experienced incivility while shopping, a slight rise from 2011 (49 percent).

In addition to impacting consumers, incivility impacts employees, according to the research. Uncivil employees can mean higher recruiting costs, lower morale and productivity, greater legal risk and increased chances that customers will bear the brunt of an unhappy or uncivil representative.

“Company leaders need to engage their employees at all levels if they are going to safeguard their reputations and retain a committed workforce and loyal customer base,” the report noted.

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