This study identified the latent profile types of protection against customer bullying in workplaces and reviewed their predictors. First, there were four types of latent profile for protection against customer bullying, namely, the lagging type (Type 1), the medium type (Type 2), the relative preventive type (Type 3), and the excellent type (Type 4). Second, their predicting variables included age, gender, service period, position, occupational category, worker monitoring scope, decrease in the number of customers causing problems, decrease in disputes with customers, and worker satisfaction. This section will discuss the characteristics of each type as well as the variables predicting these types based on the research findings.
The lagging type constituted the majority of the sample size, accounting for 66.6% of all participants. This type represented a low implementation level in all five domains of protection against customer bullying, such as preventive management, follow-up support, authorization, infrastructure establishment, and welfare promotion. This group showed the lowest possibility for the implementation of protective measures against customer bullying in the face-to-face service business of Korea and can be set as a standard for research on protection systems.
The relative preventive type, accounting for 13.5% of all participants, showed that sales and worker satisfaction are predictors. Sales is a typical occupational category of customer contact, and the demand for preventive programs against the risk of physical violence from customers has been raised for this category earlier than for other occupational categories . This type includes posting texts that prevent abusive language, creating a manual to handle issues of customer bullying, and educating employees on this topic. Worker satisfaction increased merely by posting texts requesting customers to abstain from using abusive language and educating workers on how to handle abusive customers. Guay et al.  and Kwak et al.  favored education programs to teach workers the skills to handle violence, manage behaviors, and intervene in assaults. Workers must be trained to discontinue their work when customer bullying is severe and get away from the situation, and problem-solving strategies must be established to cope with customer assaults . Allen  claimed that violence prevention programs were effective in reducing the number of assaults; however, statistically significant results for decrease in disputes with customers were not show in this study for this type. The simplest and most basic method to negate customer bullying is to make customers aware that they should not bully workers. The fact that workers’ satisfaction increases merely by knowing how to cope with bullying has significance.
The medium type, which comprised 14.9% of all participants, showed a medium-level effort to implement a worker protection system. The predictors of this type were call centers, increase in the number of customers causing problems, decrease in disputes with customers, and worker satisfaction. Issues were constantly raised in call centers because anonymous customers used abusive language. Workers are penalized if they hang up first, even if customers are using abusive language, which is why there must be a system to prevent this penalty . The medium type had both the increase in the number of customers causing problems and decrease in disputes with customers, concurrently. When a worker protection system is implemented, customer complaints may increase as they may not understand workers’ actions to prevent abusive language of customers. As both customers and workers now know how to report violence against them, it increases the reporting of workplace violence [24, 25]. Previous studies show that workers tend to “sabotage” customers with problematic behavior [26, 27]. It is necessary to seek both worker protection and customer satisfaction by overcoming this vicious cycle through the mechanism of trust between customers and workers .
The excellent type, adding up to a mere 5% of all participants, showed high implementation rate for all five domains, namely preventive management, follow-up support, authorization, infrastructure establishment, and welfare promotion. The predictors included worker monitoring scope, decrease in disputes with customers, and worker satisfaction. In this study, worker monitoring scope refers to a system that monitors not customers but workers and whether they treat customers well. Choi et al.  discovered that more surveillance and monitoring by the organization had a negative impact on workers. In this study, it was a predictor of workplaces with high worker protection. Civilotti et al.  claimed the necessity to monitor workers for effective violence prevention programs as well as the decrease of customers causing problems. A reason for workers’ violence exposure is the lack of management attention to workplace violence, and security cameras and video monitoring must be set up to reduce violence . Even though monitoring systems aim to increase customer satisfaction, they also seemed to have an effect on reducing customer violence. The monitoring system in this study showed an effect on both customer satisfaction and worker protection. This indicates that the monitoring systems in disputes with customers serve as an intervention mechanism. Given that a mediator is necessary to resolve bullying issues , monitoring can be used as evidence when a mediator determines whether there was bullying or not, thereby making fair judgments. This implies that the excellent type serves as the biggest predictor for the decrease in disputes with customers and worker satisfaction.
In this study, the number of men in the excellent latent type was 3.207 fold higher than that of the lagging type. In a study by Dassisti et al. , women were the main victims of bullying due to sexual harassment and stalking at work. When a system for managing customer harassment is implemented, women will use it more frequently than men. The government needs to provide support to protect workplaces with a high proportion of women.
Additionally, this study revealed that worker protection had an effect on decrease in disputes with customers and increase in worker satisfaction. Even with an existing law on worker protection, 66.6% of all respondents in this study reported the absence of a protection system. As service workers interact with customers the most, customer bullying is bound to have a significant impact on workplace safety of workers . If there is no system for prevention or management of workplace violence, workers cannot properly handle violent situations, which will negatively impact their health ; therefore, worker protection systems mitigate health risks . Moreover, it is necessary to establish protective systems suitable for each occupational category with the participation of managers and stakeholders such as employee representatives and health care managers .
In this study, the predictors were most prominent when there were several protective measures, a lot of women, and a greater number of assistant managers or executives, superior to the general staff. In a few of the types, age and service period also had a significant effect. There were more women in call centers or sales, where there is a lot of customer interaction , and, therefore, more women exhibited negative health effects owing to abusive language of customers . Protective measures were first implemented for this occupational category, and there was a better system for senior positions and people with longer service periods. As for age, the results of this study were consistent with another study, which reported greater violence exposure for younger employees .
This study has a few limitations. First, it was a cross-sectional research based on the self-report of participants, and thus, cannot accurately express causal relations. Second, the participants were limited to a few occupational categories, thereby not representing all service categories. Nonetheless, this study is significant in that it identified the latent profile types of protection against customer bullying in workplaces and determined their predictors, thereby setting the policy direction.
This study makes the following suggestions. First, even though it has been a while since the bill for worker protection is passed, 66.6% of customer service employees responded that a protection system was not properly implemented. It is, therefore, necessary to inform customers to not bully the workers and educate workers on how to deal with customer bullying. Second, the medium type showed significant results on both the increase in customers causing problems and the decrease in disputes with customers. There is a need for methods to increase customer understanding of the worker protection system and promote trust between workers and customers. Third, the excellent type showed significant results for the worker monitoring system and the decrease in disputes with customers. Managers must make a balanced intervention to enhance worker competency for customer satisfaction while also reducing instances of customers causing problems, thereby satisfying both workers and customers.