Purpose – This study seeks to investigate the service interaction behaviors that elicit a sense of comfort for the customer in the service encounter, and to investigate the mediating role of comfort on assessments of quality, customer satisfaction and positive word‐of‐mouth in two industries. Design/methodology/approach – In‐depth interviews were used to create an initial list of interaction behaviors displayed by service employees in an encounter. A quantitative study was then used to collect data to empirically examine the relationship between the constructs of interest. Findings – Two key groups of interaction behavior are identified and contain specific behaviors that create a sense of overall comfort for the customer. Overall comfort positively impacts both overall quality and customer satisfaction, and this ultimately leads to positive word‐of‐mouth. Research limitations/implications – The research focuses on two industries only: fashion apparel retailing and casual dining restaurants. Future research needs to examine other industries, experiential or credence services, level of involvement or the impact of culture. Practical implications – Managers are recommended to incorporate interaction behaviors into front‐line employee training and design of comfort‐enhancing strategies. Originality/value – Research on employee behaviors and emotional aspects of the encounter is relatively scant, and this study investigates the specific behavioral repertoire that gives rise to an overall feeling of comfort in the service encounter. Although employee behavior is widely acknowledged to have an immense impact on the customer's evaluation of the encounter, there still exists much room to explore specific behaviors that are important for successful service delivery.
Journal of Services Marketing – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 24, 2011
Keywords: Customer services quality; Employee behaviour; Social interaction; Customer satisfaction
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