Imperial College London

Dr Omar Merlo

Business School

Assistant Professor



+44 (0)20 7594 9112o.merlo




Business School BuildingSouth Kensington Campus






BibTex format

author = {Merlo, O and Eisingerich, A and Shin, HK and Britton, RA},
journal = {Mit Sloan Management Review},
title = {Overcoming the dark side of customer participation},
year = {2019}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

AB - Encouraged by the potential benefits of customer participation, many organizations increasingly rely on customers to provide feedback, suggestions, ratings, comments and complaints directly to the business to improve product or service quality. However, our research shows that the implementation of customer participation initiatives often comes at a hefty price: the potential loss of trust and commitment from frontline service employees (FLEs). Contrary to the popular belief that listening to the customers is always best, we find that in firms where customers are increasingly encouraged to have a say—and where that input is strongly linked to employee rewards, punishments, and incentives—the relational bond between FLEs and the organization may be compromised. The upshot is that FLEs can feel alienated, neglected and disheartened when they perceive that their organization is more concerned with customer input than with FLEs’ interest and well-being. This is the dark side of customer participation. This study explores this tension and sets out to reconcile it. We show how customer participation impacts the contract relationship that is formed between service managers and FLEs, and how it can affect customer interactions and well-being of FLEs. We found that FLEs’ cooperation with customer participation varies according to their anticipated personal consequences. We discuss implications of our findings and provide a set of practical management guidelines.
AU - Merlo,O
AU - Eisingerich,A
AU - Shin,HK
AU - Britton,RA
PY - 2019///
SN - 1532-9194
TI - Overcoming the dark side of customer participation
T2 - Mit Sloan Management Review
ER -