Customer responses towards disabled frontline employees

Mark Scott Rosenbaum, Rojan Baniya, Tali Seger-Guttmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of disabled service providers on customers’ evaluations of service quality and behavioural intentions. Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted a qualitative analysis of online reviews from samples collected in a “dining-in-the-dark” restaurant, which employs blind waiters, and from a restaurant that employs deaf servers. The authors also put forth three quantitative analyses that use survey methodology. Findings: Based on word clouds generated by online data, the findings show that customers treat the hiring of disabled service providers as the most prominent clue in their perceptions of organizational service quality. The quantitative results further illustrate that customers who hold more favourable attitudes towards disabled employees are more likely than other customers to spread positive word-of-mouth (WOM). Another analysis reveals that attitudes towards disabled employees are a separate construct from human compassion. Research limitations/implications: Customers’ attitudes towards disabled frontline service employees represent a service quality driver. The authors offer researchers an exploratory scale on consumer attitudes towards the hiring of disabled employees to further refine and develop for future validation. Practical implications: Retail organizations may be able to obtain a competitive advantage by employing frontline disabled people through customer WOM communications. These communications are linked to positive organizational outcomes. Originality/value: Retail and service researchers know considerably little about customers’ perceptions of interacting with disabled employees. This paper represents original research that encourages retail and service organization to employ disabled frontline employees.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-403
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Retail and Distribution Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Deaf employees
  • Dining in the dark
  • Disability inclusion
  • Disabled employees
  • People with disabilities
  • Workforce diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Marketing


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