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Is the Customer Always Right? The Potential for Racial Bias in Customer Evaluations of Employee Performance

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With the encouragement of marketing scholars, many companies are tying employee incentives to customer ratings of satisfaction, service quality, or employee performance. One potential drawback to these practices is that customers' evaluations of employees—and, therefore, any associated rewards—may be biased by employee race. This possibility was examined in a restaurant setting. We found that customers rated the promptness and attentiveness of same race servers more favorably than different race servers, but there were no differences for assessments of server friendliness or appearance. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

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2011-01-01

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norm; racial bias; customer evaluations; employee performance; ratings

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Required Publisher Statement: © Wiley. Definitive version published as: Lynn, M., & Sturman, M. C. (2011). Is the customer always right? The potential for racial bias in customer evaluations of employee performance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41(9), 2312-2324. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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